Interpreting Alaphilippe’s tortuous efforts in Pais Vasco

Vuelta al Pais Vasco

The DS, tentatively suggesting surrender terms

The physics of the situation might not have occurred to Julian Alaphilippe as his bike started to go weird on stage one of Vuelta al Pais Vasco this week. Faced with what looked like a tank slapper, he did what we all do when confronted by obstinate mechanical objects – he hit it, as hard as he could, with his fist.

But while understandable, that was never going to fix the rear puncture that was fast developing into a circus trick. Nor would it summon the rescue vehicle any quicker. Instead, with a gap between himself and the peloton and less than 4 km to race, his bike was having a tantrum. In retrospect, punching the handlebars was the only sane thing to do.

I haven’t been able to follow much of the race, catching only brief and patchy highlights, in a language I don’t understand, while in a hotel on the other side of the world. It means I had to interpret things as best I could, which in the past hasn’t gone so well. But by stage four things didn’t seem to have got any better for the Frenchman, who instead was taking part in a six-day orgy of misery – or at least everyone else was as they watched the Frenchman tumble down the GC.

Some on the move crisis management

That misery was complete on Stage 4 of Pais Vasco (which I think roughly translated means “practical joke” in French*) where for some reason Alaphilippe trailed the peloton by more than a minute and a half after an incident left him behind. With a teammate alongside him, the team car pulled up to talk to Alaphilippe. An arm came out of the driver’s window with a bottle. Alaphilippe took the first one – presumably hard liquor, but then seemed to angrily waved away a second (a mixer perhaps), as he vented his frustration. At least I think that’s what happened.

There was some sort of conversation and then what looked like a white flag, held up by the DS (I suppose it could have been a gel, and I admit, it’s possibly Alaphilippe was tossing something away rather than gesturing to his boss). Alaphilippe, who at least had two working wheels this time, seemed to accept the surrender – that of his DS, and his own.

* This is not true.

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