Race director's rant over Mark Renshaw 'headbutts' was plain wrong
report by Brenden Gallagher of The Telegraph
'It may be just a coincidence but Sebastien Chabal – known as The Animal in these parts – was the Tour's guest of honour on Thursday and it was a joy to see the look on his face when asked about the Mark Renshaw "headbutts" after Mark Cavendish's win. Child's play compared with what you see every week in French club rugby.
Officially of course the rugged French back-five forward could not approve or be over enthusiastic but the twinkle in his eyes and smile told another tale. Chabal is no stranger to the dark arts himself and clearly approved of a man who looks after his own in such a determined fashion.
Chabal's reaction was not isolated. As you might expect the debate is raging and a couple of points keep emerging that are probably worth reiterating.
Firstly Renshaw is one of the sanest, soundest and best blokes in the peloton with no previous. He is much respected for his bike handling and generally safe approach to the full-on sprint finishes we love to see. He is paid a lot of money to deliver his man – Mark Cavendish – safely to the line, the emphasis being on safely because you have to finish to win. A crash or racing incident is the last thing he wants. There has to be a reason why he acted in such a manner and we should probably give a bit more credence to his explanation. He at least deserved a hearing.
To my mind it was totally unacceptable for the Tour's technical commissioner Jean-Francois Pescheux to rant like a man who has had too much sun just minutes after the incident, boasting that he only needed one viewing of the incident to decide that Renshaw had to be thrown off the Tour.
Excuse me. Such a huge decision with ramifications for Renshaw's future career and Mark Cavendish's green jersey hopes needed to be made in an air conditioned room after a couple of Perriers following an examination of everything went on. Two riders got a mere 400 euro fine over the weekend after a couple of hours of inquest for an ugly stand-up find the other day at the end of the stage. A summary ejection warranted a tad more investigation surely?
Pescheux remember is the guy who made that shocking call on the hoof last week when he allowed Fabian Cancellara and senior members of the peloton to persuade him that there should be no racing on the Spa stage and that the sprinters should not be allowed to compete for points at the end of a stage when conditions were fine and a large crowd awaited. He seems a bit of a maverick at the very least.
To these eyes Julian Dean – looking really fit and fast on this tour by the way – nonetheless shaped to cut across Renshaw fractionally before he had earned the right and it was that provoked the Aussie who was leading out Cavendish hard on the left hand barriers. On close inspection of the video the three butts – not two please note Mr Pescheux – were clearly aimed at Dean's shoulder in what seems a legitimate attempt to get Dean to back off.
Within the rules Renshaw, or any other rider, is not allowed to take his hands of the handlebars although if you study any bunch finish in detail you will see pushing, shoving and quite frequently punching. Indeed you will see a proper tete a tete in most finishes as well. The cycling press is full of such pictures.
It's a jungle out there and that's why we love the sprints and crashes are replayed ad-infinitum and it doesn't sit well when the law makers ssuddnely tart getting all pious. It is all part of the sport.
Exhausted and frazzled by nearly five hours in the saddle on a day when the temperature soared into the mid 40s Renshaw overreacted and should have been disciplined in some way but the margins are very thin when extreme sportsmen are racing flat out. The aftermath was surely the time for cool heads to come together'
Of course this is does not reflect the total harmony between our antipodean cousins who are renowned for there good sportsmanship and competitive edge.
Commentators are calling Renshaws (Aussie) movement a 'headbutt'.
I am certain If they had ever been victim to such a movement they might revise their terminology. I saw it as a legitimate reminder to Dean (NZ) that he was impinging on Renshaws line. (like sailing into Botany bay without a Visa). I admired his stance and was pleased to see him stick up for himself. I would have expected nothing less and he can be my lead out man any day.
As far as the later blocking of Tyler Farrar is concerned I do concede that he blocked the Americans line, but no more or less than we see everyday in these sorts of sprints. It was only because his original transgression was micro analysed that this was too. Cavendish had already been released and had the stage wrapped up.