2012 Tour de France - The First Week
Tour de Crash.
Roadcycling.com's analysis of the Tour de France continues with stage 3 and beyond.
These first few stages have shown that the first week of the Tour won't disclose its winners, but it can eliminate contenders in the blink of an eye.
In stage 3 Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale took his second stage win of the Tour de France with a strong sprint for the line. It was a dynamic display of power, but as usual at the Tour de France there was some excitement before riders shifted into their 53×12s.
A crash split the peloton with 30 kilometers remaining. Depending on your point of view it was either tactical riding or disrespect to a fallen rider as Movistar continued to pull the peloton.
Crashes in a professional bike race are an unfortunate part of the sport. You cram over a hundred riders onto a narrow country road and the rule of physics applies: two solid objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. In the case of cycling when that happens the result is a crash. And as these riders are professionals they have an unwritten rule of how to act during an incident, but it depends on who the victims are and when it occurs in the race. Yeah, it can get confusing.
To be clear - there is no official UCI rule saying that the racers must slow down after a crash. However, if the crash victim is leading the race the unwritten rule is the peloton slows to give the leader an opportunity to catch back up. This is done as a sign of respect. Think Godfather.
However, if the rider who has hit the ground is a domestique then there is hardly a drop of speed as that rider is just a foot solider in the battlefield of professional cycling.
Depending on the stage there is a rule regarding crashes within the last three kilometers. If a rider crashes within three kilometers of the finish they are given the same time as the group they were in at the time of the incident. This rule was created so that the non-sprinters wouldn't have to fight with the sprinters to stay near the front of the fast charging peloton. And that leads us to another "rule of the peloton."
A bunch sprint is a tricky thing. The speeds can reach over 40 miles per hour and a slight movement left or right could send the bunch tumbling down. This type of rider is specialized and doesn't want non-sprinters getting in the way in those last 500 meters. Think of it as throwing in a VW Bug in the middle of an F1 race - the Bug is just going to jam everything up and doesn't stand a chance anyways, so why get involved?
The three kilometer rule lets the non-sprinters slide off the back, not get involved in the "argy bargy" of the final sprint and not lose any time.
While this rule is very popular for non-sprinters, as they don't need to risk their skin in