Gravel (Race) Controversy?

If you are a fan of pro racing you might recall that this is, essentially, what happened in the Amstel Gold race in 2019. Mathieu van der Poel is (rightly) celebrated for a huge hero pull that led a group back to the leaders within 500m of the finish and then finished it off by out sprinting those on his wheel, BUT …

… Julian Alaphillipe and Michael Kwiatkowski were way out front and at about the 1km mark they rode each other to a standstill because neither was willing to pull the other into the sprint. They were, comically, almost falling off their bikes they were going so slow :joy:

EDIT: it was Alaphilippe and Fuglsang … Kwiato was in the mix at the end, but he wasn’t a part of the near standstill. I just found a video a re-lived the insanity

8 Likes

I was thinking of Pinot as I wrote it. And boy, didn’t he come across as a royal twat after that interview.

2 Likes

It will be pretty entertaining to hear Dylan talk about this on BonkBros. He posted his support regarding Adam and any tactics he used. Then Ian comes out and congratulates Dylan for how hard he worked. Last year Dylan talked about times when he was in groups and didn’t want to pull, so he would go to the front and briefly roll 200W and then take his spot back in line. This is all so crazy.

Payson has been known to yell at other riders, even amateurs who are barely holding on, to pull. So none of this is new. It’s just the evolving tactics. The riders who are smart are going to figure it out and the others are going to be the sore losers complaining after it is all over.

Looking forward to seeing how this all plays out at Unbound. Keegan is clearly coming into it guns blazing, but he has had a year to think about Ivar winning last year. I could see Keegan and Finsty sitting in a lot more this year and then going extremely hard at some point fairly late to splinter whatever lead group there is. It’s going to be real interesting to see how it unfolds.

12 Likes

Oh boy. This will be a whole other kettle of fish for someone to whine about. Though Keegan and Russel are rivals on different teams they are also friends who have spent a million hours riding together this spring. You think they haven’t discussed theor plans and tactics?

4 Likes

Precisely, the reaction by pros/ambitious amateurs seems childish. None of the issues mentioned here go against good sportsmanship, and they all exist in other cycling disciplines or sports.

How about believing your eyes? If I saw a competitor with a Camelbak, I would assume they can and will skip some pit stops. It is not as if athletes can hide the hump (unlike, e. g. in F1 of yesteryear where you did not know how much fuel was in the cars until the first pit stop).

For me, these additional factors would make participating in a gravel race more interesting. Just like tire choice can be crucial in gravel races if you want to be as fast as you can. That seems like part of the fun for me.

That’s actually a good example of lack of sportsmanship to me: no rules were broken, but it is a bit cruddy. Especially if it is more of a charity ride, this seems completely unnecessary.

It is also an example that this goes against “the spirit of gravel”: from what I hear, the gravel scene is much more relaxed and such stunts destroy the good vibe people have. (Perhaps it is the influx of roadies who seem much stiffer and, hmmm, unwelcoming on average.)

Even if you forget about all that, how much of an advantage do you have, knowing your fellow athlete’s pre-race strategy? Especially if you know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, you know you don’t have a direct answer to your competitor’s strength (and vice versa). Instead, you usually have to compete asymmetrically.

Who better to represent the spirit of gravel than WT has beens chasing a buck in a newfound pasture of marketing opportunity?

3 Likes

Just have all the riders mount a notio (or other) aerosensor on the front and measure how much wind they catch. Biggest catch wins, and you can live stream the data. It’s the future!

3 Likes

I mean moaning about someone else’s tactics and finding excuses is an integral part of bike racing at any level. I’d be a masters world champion by now if not for the others spoiling my perfectly laid plans :grinning:.

Gravel just happens to be a sport where social media, podcast and YouTube presence seem to be a prerequisite to entry. That’s why all the “controversy” is playing out, in most other races no one else gives a damn apart from the complainer.

2 Likes

“The spirit of gravel” is not a thing for the pro field who are trying to make a living off of pro bike racing IMO especially those who are whining about the unwritten rules.

“The spirit of gravel” is alive and well for a majority of the amateur riders who enjoy riding their bike and riding these events however they want. That way could be racing to win, party pacing it, or somewhere in between.

4 Likes

5 Likes

Appears to be a lot of drama in in the US and the Spirit of Gravel…Mandatory pulls in what cycling discipline is that a reality… Were rules broken…Someone evoked the infamous phrase The Spirit of Gravel. Does The Spirit of Gravel have a code of ethics…It could be in the future as the UCI has gravel as a discipline…hmmm
But wait on a Stage of this years Giro an FDJ rider was yelling at a Movistar rider for not pulling in the break and in the end the Movistar rider won the stage no penalties.
So next year wear a hydropack :thinking: a GCN dude said UCI banned them in the pro peloton as it makes them MORE areo…hmmmm
But in the end it all comes down to Sofia Gomez Villafane’s famous quote post her win at Unbound…“F@#! the Spirit of Gravel” :scream: :astonished: :woman_shrugging:

just saying I have NO dog in the fight…but every time I hear gravel issues I think of what Ms Sofia G said… :confused:

3 Likes

Yeah I agree. And it ceases to exist when pros are paid to go to “lottery” events.

It’s so crazy if you rewatch the EF video with Lachlan and Howes doing their first Unbound. Most of the dialogue is Lachlan’s concern of bringing a world tour team and just wanting to fit in and join the gravel scene. 3 years later and pros don’t even participate in the mass start.

4 Likes

Also, in this year’s Giro on Stage 12. Nico Denz, Toms Skujins, and Sebastian Berwick were off the front with like 12k of flat to go after a super hard fight up the last climb. Berwick is obviously the weakest of the 3 and after he skips several rotations the other 2 look at him and try to get him to pull through he plainly yells at the “I’m not doing sh!t!”. And he didn’t. He ended up 3rd cause he couldn’t out sprint the other 2 but you gotta do what you gotta do to give yourself the best chance.

7 Likes

IMO it’s just as fair to skip pulls to give yourself a better chance as it is to mildly bully others to do more work. Obviously don’t be mean but some peer pressure will make people do more work than is good for them.

7 Likes

Did you ASK them if they were in your age group, or did they spontaneously volunteer that info?

If you care about placing, if stands that everyone cares about placement. If that’s the case…this sounds an awful lot like a baseball batter asking a pitcher before the pitch if they’re throwing a fastball. “Why…uhh…yes. YES, I definitely AM throwing a fastball”

Persononally I’d have probably just said “no hablo ingles” and sat on your wheel till the end :joy:

1 Like

Pretty sure everyone in the top 10-20 are using Locos as Unbound prep.

2 Likes

Kind of tangential, and I know there are no teams in gravel races, but at what point do the lifetime riders stop letting keegan simply ride away? At what point do they start attacking him? Is he really so much stronger than them that a small group of them can’t mark him?

Unless they try something, this series is going to turn into a competition for second (if it hasn’t already) and get boring relatively quickly.

Yep, the Spirit of Gravel doesn’t have a ton to do with the pros. The mass starts with them at the front, getting passed by them riding the same course, maybe chatting or saying hi after the race - things like that add an extra layer of excitement and are part of what makes gravel fun. The pros are part of the spectacle.

But expecting someone who makes part of their living off race winnings to not do everything they can within the rules to win, is absurd. If you’re a retired WT pro with a nice nest egg who already makes most of their money from straight-up sponsorships, you can rest on your laurels to some extent and feel like you’re doing some gentlemanly racing.

Then look at an up and coming rider who makes more of their income from race winnings and depends on those wins for future sponsorships, and consequently their livelihood. It’s absurd to expect them to not do everything within the rules to win races.

It’s a really shitty form of gatekeeping where former WT pros are effectively trying to stifle the careers of younger races by publicly shaming them into weaker tactics. Fuck gatekeeping, fuck complacency, fuck nostalgia.

ETA: I’m apparently having some very big feelings about this particular issue.

8 Likes

100%. I remember Coach Chad talking about this some years back. If you can prompt someone to take pulls when they didn’t want to, that’s racecraft too.

8 Likes