In the business of winning bike races, putting on an act to deceive the opposition is a well-thumbed page of the cycling playbook. Disguising the level of pain you’re experiencing is critical when keeping pace in a break, as is the opposite, showing weakness when trying to fool an opponent into a reckless move.
But Lotto Soudal rider Tiesj Benoot seemed to take the art of deception to ninja levels in the Brabantse Pijl today.
Think for a moment what goes through the mind of the man riding alongside someone so strong he can toss away a fresh bidon for reasons no greater than he doesn’t like the look of it?
You’re riding at full pace, with a gap of only a few precious seconds over the chasing peloton, trying to keep up and figuring you need all the refreshment and respite you can get. But there’s one man — who also happens to spend a lot of the time shouting at you to hurry up — who having picked up a bottle from a soigneur at the side of the road, looks at it with disgust and flings it to the side of the road, riding to the finish line 45 km away without it. Water is for sissies he’s saying, which makes you the sissy, regardless of what all those nutrition experts told you on day one.
And yet this was Benoot in the Brabantse Pijl who did just that, and for reasons we may never know. But, along with an already powerful chin, what better way to project unbeatable strength?
There might be others reasons for Benoot’s actions, and the inner workings of the peloton will remain a mystery to most of us. Did he just not like the flavour? But even then, how badly to you have to hate “Zesty Tangerine” to get annoyed about it and ride on without?
Benoot finished the race in third place, which all things considered wasn’t bad for a man riding not on bread and water, but on just the bread. I like to think that was thanks to a genius decision designed to destroy the spirits of those trying to keep up. I bet he skipped dinner too.
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