Paris-Nice: Van Rensburg loses the “I’m fine” debate

Paris-Nice Stage 3 – Chablis to Chalon-sur-Saone

There was nothing of any note to report on Stage 3 of Paris-Nice. No storms, no sleet, no hypothermia. Instead a bog-standard normal day, complete with a breakaway, a chase, and a sprint finish (won by Irishman Sam Bennett). It was easy to miss all those cross winds, and all the misery.

Reinhardt Janse Van Rensburg failing the “what is your name” test on Stage 3 of Paris-Nice

Not that Reinhardt Janse Van Rensburg of Dimension Data was thinking that as he rolled out of Chablis. The South African champion might have appreciated weather he could at least recognise, or did until about 30 km to go when, missing the adversity of the days prior, he decided to crash.

All right, that last bit isn’t true. But after two days riding in horrendous conditions, it seemed unfitting that something as trivial as a touch of wheels or some other piece of bad luck (a discarded arm warmer?) would leave him laying on the road in the fetal position as riders and their team cars drove past him – exactly what you want to hear as your life flashes before your eyes.

Van Rensburg seemed in no hurry to move. Several men in jumpers came by to look at him, before moving on. Then two of them took an elbow each and tried to lift him.

This usually gives the first indication of what condition a crashed rider is in. Wincing and maybe reaching for the base of your back is one thing. Van Rensburg though wobbled.

If the next sign you’re looking for is the ability to walk unassisted, he failed this too. Instead, he was guided to the side of the road, leaning back as he was escorted there, as if being taken outside by sympathetic nightclub bouncers.

For his part Van Rensburg tried to politely excuse himself, intent on not only retrieving his bike from the middle of the road, but also getting on it and rejoining his teammates. He had a race to ride after all, and the peloton was getting away. Thanks for the kind words gentleman, but I’ll be on my way.

The doctors, and they carried bags so they must have been doctors, weren’t fooled. They prodded him a bit as he stood ready to remount his bike just as soon as there was a break in traffic. I’m not sure if “letting go of the patient and seeing if he falls over” is official medical procedure, but it was enough. Van Rensburg was in no fit state to ride on.

They appeared to ask Van Rensburg some simple questions… most likely his name, what team he rode for, what he thought he was doing laying on the road in the middle of France – checking he hadn’t lost his mind (although arguably the time to do that was when it started snowing on Stage 2).

In response Van Rensburg looked serious, as if trying to answer something philosophical. It’s all very well getting the answer to “what is your name?” but if it takes you two minutes it’s really a hollow win.

The man with the bag put two arms on the South African’s shoulders and thinking concussion, declared him out, as the Voiture Balai parked up ready to provide an unwelcome seat. Van Rensburg was dazed, confused, but not exactly beaten, heroically intent on carrying on. Those are no doubt the exact qualities you hope for in a teammate, and also in the riders it’s easy to like watching on TV.

Click here for all the results from Stage 3 of Paris-Nice.

Read more from Paris-Nice:

Stage 1: All the fun of an “orange alert” cross wind
Stage 2: It’ll all end in tears

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