Six of the strangest moments from the 2015 WorldTour season

Six moments to remember – or forget – from the 2015 season

With the 2015 World Tour season now well and truly over, most of the planet’s best road cyclists are sensibly sunning themselves – or, if Instagram is anything to go by, all out and about on their mountain bikes – before training starts in earnest for next year. 

We at RCUK aren’t ones for getting too nostalgic at the season’s end, although we did sure enjoy it, so this isn’t round up of the best races or wins from 2015, but rather a collection of the stranger moments from last season that’ll stick in the memory.

From the farce at the Tour of Oman, Richie Porte needing to keep his friends closer than his enemies and more off-road than on-road action at a windswept Gent-Wevelgem, here are six moments that probably won’t make the post-season highlight reels.

Nibali gets booted out of the Vuelta

Back in the day, when cycling wasn’t on TV and riders competed in frankly ludicrous races like the 560km Bordeaux-Paris, hitching a ride was pretty common. There are plenty of stories of riders jumping on a train, skipping a few kilometres, and jumping back on closer to the finish with nice fresh legs. Of course, the lack of TV coverage, GPS on the riders’ bikes and organisation helped with this immensely.

These days, though, nobody would be stupid enough to try and do something like that. Nobody, of course, except Vincenzo Nibali. That’s the same Vincenzo Nibali who’s won all three Grand Tours, two Italian championships and owns of one of the coolest nicknames in cycling – The Shark.

So what was running through the Astana leader’s mind as he grabbed onto his team car and hitched a high speed ride back to the peloton on the second stage of the Vuelta is anyone’s guess. Needless to say, the Italian’s piece of skullduggery earned him an immediate ejection from the race, and it didn’t even have the panache of Gianluca Brambilla and Ivan Rovny’s fight from last year’s edition that saw both riders disqualified.

Even though Nibali returned to win the Giro di Lombardia in style, it’s this, one of the more bizarre acts of cheating in recent years, that’ll be remembered from his 2015 season.

Sagan’s natural break in Roubaix

Sometimes when things aren’t going your way, life sticks the boot in. In November, Peter Sagan’s 2015 season looks like a rather good one indeed, with a rainbow jersey on his shoulders having won the World Championships, another green jersey at the Tour and multiple other wins along the way. But back in April, he was riding under the pressure of a hefty new contract with Tinkoff-Saxo, a team owner who thought said contract justified a clean sweep of the Classics and the fact that no matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t win a race. On the plus side, the frustration resulted in a creditable bike throw, which is always one to enjoy.

After being outfoxed by Niki Terpstra and Alexandr Kristoff at Flanders the week before, Sagan was hoping for better at Paris-Roubaix. The cycling Gods, on the other hand, were not smiling on the Slovak who, among multiple mechanicals, also had to endure the humiliation of jumping off his bike and rushing behind a bush for the sort of natural break that you really don’t want in one of the year’s biggest races.

Sagan’s not the only one, either. Greg LeMond tells a particularly grizzly story about an attack of explosive diarrhea at the Tour de France, and it shows that no matter how good your form, your stomach can blow it all away in one foul [sic] swoop.

Farce at the Tour of Oman (stage five)

‘Eddy Merckx, Fabian Cancellara and Vincenzo Nibali are arguing under a bridge in the desert’ sounds like it should be the start of a brilliant joke, but unfortunately it was actually the most action spectators managed to see at the Tour of Oman’s stage five.

You see, the trouble with trying to race bikes in the desert is that YOU’RE TRYING TO RACE BIKES IN THE BLOODY DESERT. And 50-plus degree temperatures, pneumatic tyres, sandstorms, high winds and road bikes are not a particularly smart blend of things in an already notoriously unaccommodating place.

The stage had already been shortened due to temperatures of 47 degrees celsius, but when six Bardiani CSF riders had tyres explode, and plenty of others found that their brakes weren’t working correctly, the peloton decided to take a stand. The never shy Cancellara was one of the key spokesmen for the riders, who held an impromptu conference under the shelter of a bridge, involving the likes of Nibali, Tom Boonen, Roman Kreuziger and Filippo Pozzato (who’s never short of a reason to climb off his bike these days) before approaching organiser’s representative Eddy Merckx, a man notorious for his compromising approach to bike racing. Or maybe not.

A clash between the immovable object of Cancellara and the equally immovable object of Merckx was never likely to end well, but eventually a compromise was reached and the riders embarked upon a flatter, neutralised stage to make sure the race could continue.

Gent-Wevelgem in the wind

Another race sabotaged by the weather, but for completely different reasons, was Gent-Wevelgem, held in the, erm, always clement, tropical paradise of Flanders. While E3 Harelbeke on the Friday had largely escaped the worst of the weather –partly due to the hedge-lined roads in that part of Belgium providing a solid cover – heading out the other way towards the French border exposed the riders to winds of up to 50mph. The result not only broke up the race, it also sent riders all over – and in many cases right off – the roads with Sky’s Geraint Thomas one of the higher profile victims, jumping back on his bike to remarkably finish third on the podium.

Aside from Thomas’s brush with the verge, there were numerous more serious crashes and only 39 riders actually made it to the finish in Wevelgem still on their bikes. The remaining either crashed out or climbed off as Luca Paolini ambushed the lead group to take a deserved win.

Amusing as it looked at times on the television, and as great a spectacle as the race was, the conditions were horrible (as we can attest first hand, having ridden to the finish in Wevelgem that day) and Luke Rowe told us post-race that in his opinion the conditions were dangerous enough that the race shouldn’t have taken place. Either way, it was a race that’ll be remembered for years to come.

The Porte wheel change

If it wasn’t hard enough to keep track of your rivals in a crowded peloton already, we learned in 2015 that you need to be wary of your friends, too. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Orica-GreenEDGE’s Simon Clarke inadvertently laid a few more slabs after offering Richie Porte his front wheel on stage ten of the Giro d’Italia after the Team Sky leader punctured late on.

It was a touching display of friendship, but one that only served to earn Porte a two-minute time penalty for accepting assistance from another team, compounding the Aussie’s already wretched luck in the race. Ultimately – after the only recorded mad dash to scrutinise the Giro rule book in living memory – it was the correct decision, if not the most popular one.

Riders and race vehicles

One of the season’s most unfortunate themes was that of race vehicles and riders sharing an altogether more intimate relationship than either would have liked.

Perhaps the worst of all was Trek Factory Racing’s Jesse Sergent being absolutely wiped out by a Shimano neutral service car at the Tour of Flanders. The windy, narrow roads of east Belgium are a  nightmare at the best of times, let alone with 200 riders and countless race vehicles ploughing along them, but it was a truly terrible piece of judgement and driving that left Sergent on the floor on one of the more serviceable sections of road.

At the other end of the year, BMC were up in arms at the Clásica de San Sebastián as Greg van Avermaet ended up in a heap after being taken out by a camera motorbike. It wasn’t a crash in the same sense as Sergent at Flanders, more of a classic ‘tyre burn’ that kids occasionally do to each other’s rear wheels for a laugh, but what made it more galling for Van Avermaet is that he’d just attacked and was gapping the peloton at the time with realistic hopes to win the race.

Yet another rider taken down by a bike was Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang at the Tour de France. On stage 18 Fuglsang was in the front group on the Col du Glandon when he appeared to crash out of nowhere. But pictures consequently showed that he’d been clipped by a motorbike that, seconds earlier, had also nearly taken out Ryder Hesjedal.

Fortunately, by the time the Vuelta rolled around lessons had be learned. Except they hadn’t. Tinkoff-Saxo had both Peter Sagan taken out at the race, and Sergio Paulinho getting rather lucky, with the former’s angry reaction enough to bag him a fine before he abandoned the race, as if the road rash wasn’t enough. Let’s hope 2016 sees fewer incidents like these.

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