Tour of Utah-ah-ah: Carpenter uses head to protect head when things come to a head

Robin Carpenter had a problem, and not just that he was laying flat on the concrete.

The race was getting away from him, that much was true, but he’d banged his head and torn off half his jersey. That meant dazed, and partially naked, he had to be checked over before he could rejoin the race. But worse than that, he had no helmet.

So while the medic asked him how many fingers he was holding up and whether he could spell his first name, all Carpenter could think about was solving his cabeza problem.

And so, faced with an ever increasing deficit to make up, and no team car in sight, Carpenter did what any self-respecting pro cyclist would do. He stole one.

Looking good: Carpenter with his borrowed bonnet

Stole might be a bit harsh. “Borrowed” is more accurate.

Either way the fan at the side of the road was left lid-less, as Carpenter rode on, putting in a mighty effort to make the eight minutes he’d lost, to regain the group, albeit in an oversized black, retro-Lemond bicycle helmet, a big black thing, that made his head look big, even if he had been cleared of concussion.

Carpenter borrowed a helmet from a fan when his was smashed to smithereens. The result: a retro Lemond look

The image of him grinning as the camera caught up served duel purposes.

On the one hand, while the fact that Carpenter thought he looked good must have left the concussion doctor wondering whether he might want to call in a second opinion, he could only have been reassured by the ingenuity that made him so pleased with himself in the first place.

It did make you wonder how differently things could have gone.

What would have happened had there been no spectator to cadge a favour from? What if their head had been much smaller than his?

Or maybe worse.

What if, having been sent skidding across the asphalt, it was not Carpenter’s helmet that was torn apart, but his shorts, and maybe his bike? This, combined with a limited choice of spectators, could have painted a different picture.

Carpenter could have faced the prospect of being paced back to the group wearing an oversized helmet and a skirt, while testing the aerodynamics of a nine-year-old’s Raleigh Chopper.

Carpenter competed the stage in good shape, in his own clothes, on his own bike, and with a more familiar team helmet on his head after his team got their own heads in gear. What became of the purloined bonnet, we don’t know. Returned perhaps with a few more miles on the clock, and with a story to tell.

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Tour of Utah-ah-ah: The toughest stage race in America

The organisers of the Tour of Utah had made their intentions clear. Their race would not be ordinary, nor would it pander to convention. Instead it would suit crazy people, specifically those with maps, crayons, and an authority bestowed upon them to create what looked to be the parcour from hell. By the end of it a State known for its winter downhills would begin to celebrate its summer ups.

The result on day one was a race profile that looked like a hollowed out volcano, with super-hero-climbing not seen since Adam West donned his Batman cape and scaled walls using nothing more than a rope from his utility belt, with a little help from a dramatic camera angle.

As if adding to the lunacy, the helicopter pilot performs a perfect handbrake turn above the riders.

But a race billed as “The toughest stage race in America”, had a name to live up to. Which might have explained why the race the profile looked like the result of some prison art therapy. The patient was likely a former rider, with the demented intention of denying anyone a race win ever again. And so, recalling a selection of razor sharp murder weapons, and presented with some blunt crayons, set about using each to design stage outlines.

The result must have been quite startling. The rest of the race features silhouettes of a bike spanner, a meat cleaver, a smashed beer bottle, a pipe wrench, a hook sword, and a set of brass knuckles.

Thankfully first impressions suggests riders could handle it, and in some style. That is if Ty Magner is anything to go by, or Brent Bookwalter who won stage 2, not to mention all that murderous scenery.

It might well look lunatic, but luckily some of us like lunatic. It’s one of the best races of the year.

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