The pan flat stage 10 of the Giro D’Italia was not destined to court such controversy. It was supposed to be a straightforward day for the sprinters.
Firstly, a five man breakaway, all Italians, put paid to this scenario by fighting out the finish…and, even then, one of the protagonists, Oscar Gatto, was most unfortunate to suffer a puncture with three kms to go, which abruptly ended his bid for glory.
But this was not the most important puncture of the day, not by a long stretch. The stage win itself has been superseded by an even bigger story.
No, Australian Richie Porte of Team Sky suffered a puncture just outside the ‘protected’ 3 kms to the finish zone just as the sprinters’ teams were ramping up the tempo in a vain attempt to catch the escapees. In a split second fellow Aussie and friend Simon Clarke, from rival team Orica Green Edge, stopped, whipped out his own front wheel and slipped it into Richie’s front forks.
He instinctively stopped to help his mate. You don’t leave a mate to die in the Outback. Great sportsmanship! Yes?
In any event Porte lost 47 seconds on the GC to rivals Contador and Aru, punishment enough for bad luck, but this predicament somewhat tempered by his countryman’s honourable self-sacrifice.
And, as Shakespeare would have written, here’s the rub. Porte and Clarke were deemed to have broken the UCI rules. They have both been fined some amount in euros, but two minutes has been added to their overall times….no great imposition for Simon Clarke, as he cannot win the race.
However, for Richie Porte, now demoted to 13th place from 3rd place, the UCI might just as well have told him to finish the Giro on a BMX.
Ironically, Team Astana, who have had at least five riders convicted of taking performance enhancing drugs over the past twelve months, and who miraculously hit form just in time for the Grand Tours, (they have three riders in the top five), now lead the Giro’s Fair Play category.
The Wattmeister is angry and bemused.