Ten minutes or so after David Millar won Stage 12 of the Tour de France, the peloton rolled in to the finish, and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Matt Goss (Orica-Greenedge) sprinted in their ongoing battle in the Points Competition. Goss, with Sagan on his wheel, drifted left a bit in his sprint, where Sagan was slowly pulling alongside. Eventually, Sagan sat up with an Angry Euro Hand Wave protesting Goss’s line deviation.
Sprinting has its own rules, and they’re not entirely clear. I’d review, but instead, I’ll just direct readers toward Cyclocosm’s “Rules of the Group Sprint,” which has all the information you need to know. Riders shall be strictly forbidden to deviate from the lane they selected when launching into the sprint and, in so doing, endangering others.
Goss was relegated for his lane deviation. Did his move endanger Peter Sagan? Unlike truly shutting the door on an opposing sprinter – drifting toward the barriers to shut down the passing lane – Goss simply edged over. Sagan was sprinting tight on Goss to maximize his in-the-draft acceleration. Sagan kept sprinting despite Goss’s drift. It was only several pedal strokes later, once he was soundly beaten, that he waves his arm in protest.
We don’t know if the judges would have reviewed the finish had Sagan not protested, and we don’t know if Sagan would have won had he not been checked by Goss. We do know that Goss drifted, but was it inconsistent with standard sprint practice?
Cyclocosm concludes that the “endangering others” clause of the rule on lane deviation is the important one. Did Goss endanger Sagan? Was the relegation justified?
Edit: It should be noted without surprise that Robbie McEwen doesn’t agree with the judges decision.
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