Tour of Slovenia: Stage 2 – Ljubljana to Ljubljana
We missed extended highlights of the Tour of Slovenia’s second stage as live footage cut out, presumably for reasons relating to the same weather that it such a thrilling climax. But what we missed out in bike racing on we made up for in the closing kilometers, as conditions turned the finishing loop into an ice rink.
You couldn’t blame riders for easing up a bit going into the corners, thinking perhaps that it wasn’t worth being spread over the Slovenian asphalt like margarine with the Tour looming. But any let up was short lived. By the last lap the speed was up to break-neck again, and the peloton turned, ready to break neck.
Riding diagonally through a zebra crossing, it was a Dimension Data rider (Jacques Janse Van Rensburg?), charging along for Mark Cavendish, who went down first, losing his bike but none of his momentum, and finding himself with enough time to write his will as he slid along the road, over the curb, and straight into a wall. He came to a halt in front of some open-mouthed spectators getting their first look of professional bike racing.
The rider behind, possibly unidentifiable but for a white jersey, managed to dodge him, and survived the turn by steering wide onto the sidewalk.
But just as he was about to look behind him and laugh maniacally, he clattered into what looked from the helicopter like a teenaged boy, all arms and legs, whose distress was peeked not just by the collision, but by the sudden disappearance of his kagool.
One moment it had been tucked under his arm, the next it had vanished. He looked aghast, in a silent movie kind of way, before his coat re-emerged 30 feet away, wrapped around the rider. The transformation of Stage 2 into an episode of Wacky Races was now complete.
The rider in white got to his feet. He seemed less interested in what had just happened, than how he’d come to be wrapped in a teenager’s kagool, which television footage showed him producing from out of nowhere, like a bunch of flowers in a magic trick.
The novice public swept into action, performing those little tasks that are neither appreciated nor really necessary in times like this – fetching lost bidons, propping bikes up, and mothering grown men in Lycra. They weren’t to know that compassion doesn’t count inside the 1km to go marker and to the fallen at least, the race was already lost.
With the crash riders on their feet and relatively unharmed, Orica rider Luka Mezgec crossed the line first, gripping his top tube with his knees and checking his balance before finally risking raising his arms in triumph. Or was it survival?