Ilnur Zakarin: Crashing in style

Tour of Catalunya. Stage 4: La Seu d’Urgeil to Igualada

Zakarin (right) climbs back onto his bike

Ilnur Zakarin was the victim of a bad pile up today. At least that was one way to look at it. Another was to consider him the advert for a new type of lifestyle choice, the zoned out rock star, sunglasses on, and parking his backside at the side of the road while others cleared up the madness behind him. Crash he might have done, but if such a thing were possible, Zakarin had crashed in style.

It happened around Prats de Rei, 31 km from the finish line of a snow-shortened Stage 4. The peloton divided as it approached a roundabout, and as they were reunited things got a little too close.

Footage showed the mess, with Cofidis riders, standing in the middle of a tangled pile of bikes, reenacting scenes performed by Rayane Bouhani only last week. And there was Zakarin, making his way through traffic in a daze.

Zakarin taking it easy (or at least looking that way)

Somehow he avoided further collisions, reaching the grass verge looking like he’d just survived one of those grotesque accidents filmed by a Russian dash-cams, in which an 18-wheeler lands on a cyclist, who miraculously walks away, a little dusty, because the driver left the passenger side window open.

Whatever agony this was he was suffering, he seemed to make it look, momentarily at least, cool. (That can’t be the right word, can it?) He was making it look easy, which isn’t easy to do when your entire 1.87-meter frame is made almost entirely from bone.

That was until he stood up.

Something was wrong. For a start he kept wanting to take his shirt off, like a drunk friend (“Ilnur, mate… put your shirt back on.”), and while he’d tapped his chest to direct his team doctor to the pain, he was soon having his collarbone examined, another break, like the one he collected at the Giro last year, the suspected injury.

The doctor looked over Zakarin’s collarbone and, figuring there was nothing scary sticking out, gave him the all clear to continue. Besides, he was heading towards his bike anyhow, and didn’t look like he wanted to stop.

Pain or no pain Zakarin was ready to be paced back to the peloton by teammates Robert Kišerlovski and Rein Taarmäe – which they did; Zakarin finishing at the back of the main group, the highest ranked Katusha-Alpecin rider of the day.

Katusha tweeted tonight that it was a “rip bruise”, which we should probably take to mean rib bruise. Or maybe a broken one. Heroics from Zakarin today, who for a few moments made crashing, seem desirable. But he won’t start Stage 5.

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Shame, humiliation, defeat: The hidden virtues of a TTT

Tour of Cataluña: Stage 2 (TTT) Bangles to Banyoles

Team Roompot in the distance ahead of Team Movistar

It turns out there’s more than one way to be humiliated in a Team Time Trial. Collectively is one, and then there’s all manner of personal disgrace to be enjoyed, depending on whether you’re ditched, done in, or made delinquent by your teammates.

While followers of road cycling know that there’s little shame to dropping off the back after a good effort, or finishing last in Le Tour. But the camera makes no distinction where dignity is concerned. No sign of the effort and dedication. It shows only shame and ruin.

This is what Team Roompot-Nederlandee Loterei discovered, riding the 41.3km parcour in Cataluña today.

It’s the same lowly fate for any Pro Continental Team, not finely tuned to time trialing. While you might start the day just a few seconds behind the race leader, you know you’ll be doomed to almost certain defeat by the end of it.

Amid all the waiting and the pre-race preparations, the only thing you have going for you is that your teammates will suffer alongside you – unless the b*****ds abandon you. Although it’s worth remembering that the more of you there are left at the finish line the lesser your share of the public shame.

Not only do TTTs favour the stronger teams but so do the TV cameras, zooming in on the Froomes and the Valverdes, and only really concentrating on your progress if it’s dire, and makes good television. All of which requires unimaginable skill on the part of the marketing manager when it comes to attracting sponsors.

Movistar overtake as Oscar Riesebeek looks across

And so the time came for Roompot to move aside to allow Valverde and friends to stream past in perfect harmony.

Human nature, and experience on driving on European motorways, dictates that in times like these you string out across the road with entrenched belligerence, yelling insults at anyone who might dare pass.

But professionalism kicked in for Roompot, along with the furious hoots of the commissaires horn, which served to bleep out any expletives as a reminder that Movistar had priority.

Seeing this Oscar Riesebeek peeled off and, having put in his share of the work, resigned himself to making his own way to the finish line.

Meanwhile the commissaire raced by, pulling alongside his teammates (as spectators dived for their lives), leaning on the horn until they understood his warning against them taking advantage from the Movistar slipstream, which was busy disappearing up the road.

Roompot complied, slowing enough for Riesebeek to reconsider and hop back on, before they tucked in behind the moto-rider instead. He would get his one-eighth share of humiliation after all, leaving it to cycling fans to understand he and his teammates were owed the opposite.

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