One of the worst things I’ve ever seen was an unkempt, drug-addled homeless person taking a shit into a carrier bag outside Old Street Somerfield at 9am on a Sunday morning. It was bleak, and unsettling. In contrast, Dumoulin’s strip-and-dump routine was a thing of beauty; function and form combined together at the crucial time.
In the video he stopped, suddenly, and wrestled with numerous garments; helmet, jersey, bibs. It reinforced how difficult it is to undertake such an event in full bongo kit.
At first I thought he had been attacked by a bee, it was beneath his collar or neck. Once the cameraman became wise to the savagery of the event he panned away pretty quickly.
What is less savoury is what happened next. Zakharin attacked, seemed to hesitate, then Nibali went off the front. Maybe I’m romanticising an era that no longer exists, but it’s clear to me that they should have waited. It’s the right thing to do in a sport governed by etiquette. It doesn’t surprise me that Nibali sought to press home his advantage, he’s a hugely overrated cyclist who won the Tour when the next best person was Jean Christophe Peraud at 8 minutes or something, and for all his reputation as a demon descender, he falls off the bike a lot. He also loses whenever he’s really up against some class. And he is graceless and unpleasant. Apart from that, he’s a legendary rider. He sought to justify his actions with this whole ‘i wouldn’t wait’ bullshit. I mean, seriously, he’s just spineless. It’s one step up from the usual self-denying ‘oh the race was on’. The race is always on. You wait or you don’t.
Dumoulin did a phenomenal ride to manage his losses and retain the jersey, riding up the final climb on his own. It was a seriously impressive effort. All that Nibali’s actions do is undermine the contest, remove the raging excitement, the battle of equals (or not), take away the spectacle and mean that the last week is enacted under a different setting. He should have waited.
For all that, the drama does count, and it needs a villain. May as well settle for Mr Nibbles, the sneaky little bastard.