It’s been quite a season for members of the public driving their cars in the middle of professional bike races, hasn’t it?
The year started with a (thankfully metaphorical) race safety bang at the Tour Down Under, where a string of parked cars and lorries marred the final kilometres of a sprint stage.
From there, thing didn’t get much better, with members of the public driving onto a roundabout being navigated at that very moment by the peloton at the Clásica de Almería, to Tom Pidcock suffering a near miss with an alarmed motorist just metres after finishing his time trial at the Volta ao Algarve, culminating in the absolute safety disaster at the Tour Féminin des Pyrénées in June, when a driver in Lourdes appeared extremely keen to follow a late Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig attack.
And while most of the cycling world’s attention has fixated on Arnaud De Lie’s stunning, one-legged sprint win a few kilometres later, the closing stages of yesterday’s Famenne Ardenne Classic provided another late-season instalment of 2023’s unfortunate series of driver-on-course events.
With just four kilometres left, Dylan van Baarle, Yves Lampaert, and Stan Dewulf were up the road, separated from the bunch by a few pursuers and a handful of seconds.
But just as Van Baarle and co. passed, a motorist – parked at the side of the road and seemingly ignorant of the peloton of pro cyclists streaming towards them – opted to pull right across the road, narrowly missing the bunch as a few shocked riders were forced to swerve.
Fortunately, nobody was injured or hit during that moment of madness, with a few choice words and bottle or two flung in their direction forcing the dozy driver to pull in again and let the race pass.
At least they put their indicators on before pulling out into the road in between the breakaway and the bunch 😱 pic.twitter.com/KQVEiZLxSu
— the Inner Ring (@inrng) October 1, 2023
“This sort of thing was why I gave up marshalling,” Kevin wrote on Twitter, formerly X, following the shocking near miss.
“Did they think it was a women’s race and the marshals weren’t taking it seriously?” Lynne asked, with more than a nod to the Tour Féminin des Pyrénées debacle.
“How dare these cyclists use his roads… He was late for the pub anyway,” Jan added, tongue firmly in cheek.
“At least they put their indicators on before pulling out into the road in between the breakaway and the bunch,” cycling account the Inner Ring noted.
Which, by the standards of motorists driving on race routes is 2023, is actually something of an improvement.
Silver linings, and all that…
Back in February last year, New York’s Department of Transportation began installing four-tonne protective ‘Jersey’ barriers on the city’s cycle lanes, after a spate of cyclist deaths and injuries in the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood.
“New York City’s cyclists deserve to be safe everywhere, but especially in protected lanes — where drivers will too often disrespect and block that critical space,” transport commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said at the time.
“We have an actionable, concrete plan to protect cyclists and we are going to deliver on this work to keep our lanes clear. We thank our friends in the advocacy community for helping us identify top targets – and we know that these 20 miles of barriers will make a real difference.”
However, despite Rodriguez’s admirable stance, the plan to protect New York’s cyclists doesn’t appear to have made much of a difference so far, with one social media user posting footage of “your typical Friday content” – in other words, motorists using the partially segregated bike lane on 11th Avenue to skip the queue of traffic ahead of them:
— Jehiah (@jehiah) September 29, 2023
However, two of the queue-jumping, bike lane-driving motorists – one of them with a bike strapped to the back of their car – weren’t prepared for one cyclist to take matters into their own hands, blocking their cheeky route along the cycle lane and forcing them back into that pesky traffic jam…
Hats off to this cyclist. My hero for the day. pic.twitter.com/DKdwqhEOxo
— Jehiah (@jehiah) September 29, 2023
And she stopped another. pic.twitter.com/0f5zqejJnw
— Jehiah (@jehiah) September 29, 2023
Not all heroes wear capes. Some ride bicycles… Quick, put that on a mug in time for Christmas!
Anyone paying attention to bike racing over the last two years will be well aware by now that Arnaud De Lie is something special.
The 21-year-old Belgian has been gobbling up the wins – taking 19 in total – since turning pro with Lotto Dstny at the start of 2022, and earlier this month showcased his ability at the very highest level, outsprinting Corbin Strong and Michael Matthews at the GP Québec to seal his first WorldTour victory.
While the Walloon Bull’s capabilities, and the devastatingly convincing ways in which he can win, have been well known for quite some time now, I think it’s fair to say that most of the cycling world was still stunned by the manner in which De Lie secured his tenth victory of the season at yesterday’s Famenne Ardenne Classic.
What a finish!@Arnaud_De_Lie held on to win the Lotto Famenne Ardenne Classic despite unclipping before the line!
— GCN Racing (@GcnRacing) October 1, 2023
Sprinting from a reduced group at the Belgian one-day race, De Lie – as predicted – simply powered away from his rivals in the final few hundred metres, appearing on course for his second victory in four days after winning the Circuit Franco-Belge on Thursday.
However, with just fifty metres to go, disaster struck. De Lie’s right foot clipped out of his pedal, forcing the 21-year-old – who briefly looked around to check on the gap he had opened up to the rest – to carry on sprinting with just his left leg, his right leg now used purely as part of a high-speed balancing act.
And if all that wasn’t enough, De Lie managed – somewhat miraculously – to hold off his fully clipped-in pursuers, finishing the whole thing off with a flourish, throwing his bike to the line, right leg almost kicking the barriers in the process.
Oh, and those sprinters he managed to hold off while sprinting with just one leg in the final 50 metres? Just Kaden Groves, winner of three stages at last month’s Vuelta, Florian Sénéchal, and freshly crowned European champion Christophe Laporte.
And the aerial shot makes the whole chaotic sprint (and De Lie’s calmness under pressure) appear even more impressive:
De Lie wins on one leg pic.twitter.com/OmElSGyC2n
— the Inner Ring (@inrng) October 1, 2023
“I f***ing love this,” De Lie’s Lotto Dstny teammate Mieke Docx, a crowd pleaser in her own right, tweeted after the Belgian’s stunning win.
“Iconic,” added AWOL O’Shea’s Charlotte Broughton, and she’s not wrong.
It’s also fitting that on the day Peter Sagan – another rider known for winning while suffering a pedal mishap mid-sprint – bowed out of the pro peloton at the Tour de Vendée, a young prodigious all-rounder made his greatest claim yet to the Slovak’s crown as the king of cycling’s entertainers.
Oh, and he’s also been known to pull the odd mid-race wheelie too…
Credit: Erwan Bolle pic.twitter.com/bxxNSVFUYO
— Lotto Dstny (@lotto_dstny) March 26, 2023
The King is retired, long sprint the King…
Wout van Aert’s week in Italy got off to the perfect start this afternoon, as the Belgian made light work of a small group sprint in Legnano to win the Coppa Bernocchi, his fifth road victory of what has been a season of near misses.
After being teed up perfectly by Tiesj Benoot, Van Aert launched his sprint early and had more than enough in the tank to hold off the fast-finishing Vincenzo Albanese and Andrea Bagioli.
“It’s a nice feeling, especially after a season where I missed out on quite some occasions on the win. It feels nice to raise the hands again and especially with the team performance we did today,” the 29-year-old said at the finish.
“I want to dedicate this victory to the people who keep on believing in me: my family, my trainer Mark, and of course, my team. Today all seven guys on the start line were committed to controlling the race and this we did until the very end, so it feels very good to finish it off.”
Wout van Aert venceu a Coppa Bernocchi em Legnano no sprint com Vincenzo Albanese e Andrea Bagioli no pódio.pic.twitter.com/M3F0b26hG3
— Pelote Ciclismo (@Pelote_) October 2, 2023
Van Aert will be hoping his late-season form, first demonstrated at last month’s Tour of Britain, will continue for the rest of his week in Italy, where he will race the Tre Valli Varesine and Gran Piemonte before riding the UCI gravel world championships for the first time at the weekend.
While Van Aert cemented his return to winning ways, most cycling fans will have viewed the composition of today’s decisive break with some trepidation, as three riders each (each!) from Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step – the two squads at the heart of the autumn’s ongoing merger saga – made it into the final nine-rider group that contested the finish.
Let’s just hope the Coppa Bernocchi isn’t a sign of bike racing to come…
Pog doing Pog things: Unicycle edition…
And, yes, I know comparisons are unfair and there’s a lot more to winning a Tour de France than bike handling, but still…
A tkole mislis? pic.twitter.com/ibOhp1IU0H
— Scouser (@2210Ljubljana) September 30, 2023
Sorry, Jonas – just don’t take those hands off the bars.
On the same weekend Peter Sagan retired from road racing, 25-year-old British pro Charlie Quarterman announced that he will bow out of the sport following the upcoming Italian autumn classics.
The Corratec-Selle Italia rider, who spent his first two years as a pro at Trek-Segafredo, was an almost permanent fixture in the breakaways at this year’s Giro d’Italia, and finished 13th on the final stage in Rome.
However, the man from Oxford, who after failing to finish today’s Coppa Bernocchi (won by Wout van Aert) will ride tomorrow’s Tre Valli Varesine and Thursday’s Gran Piemonte before hanging up his wheels, said that the physical and mental demands and risks of pro cycling, along with the almost constant uncertainty over contracts, has prompted his decision to retire at the age of 25 and pursue an economics degree.
I’ve decided to retire from professional cycling and Coppa bernocchi, Tre Valli varesine, and Gran Piemonte will be my final 3 races.
I’ve enjoyed 7 years as a professional cyclist, raced many big international races, competed with many of the top riders, and have loved the pic.twitter.com/BsvfQLZbym
— Charlie QUARTERMAN (@quartermanc) October 1, 2023
“I’ve decided to retire from professional cycling and Coppa Bernocchi, Tre Valli Varesine, and Gran Piemonte will be my final three races,” Quarterman wrote in an Instagram post.
“I’ve enjoyed seven years as a professional cyclist, raced many big international races, competed with many of the top riders, and have loved the high points along the way.
“In this last year, I took huge satisfaction from competing in, animating, and completing the Giro d’Italia with Corratec.
“However it becomes harder to maintain the complete lifestyle commitment when the physical risks, contract uncertainties, and tough demands inherent in professional racing take their toll. In the end, it was once again a serious trip to the hospital that made me put things into perspective. These are the ‘push factors’.
“However I’ve become increasingly excited about getting on with the ‘afterlife’. I plan on completing my economics degree at University of Grenoble, and pushing on with my career outside of cycling. And of course I will be getting married to Louise in the autumn of 2024.
“I’m incredibly lucky to have had a career like this in cycling and to go out on my own terms. It has been a rollercoaster, but there have been countless great comebacks and unforgettable moments. I would just like to say an enormous ‘thank you’ to everyone who made my seven years as a full-time cyclist as fantastic as they have been. It means a huge amount to me. See you on the road.”
It may have fizzled out a bit at the end, but there’s no denying that Peter Sagan – who raced for the last time as a pro on the road yesterday, at the Tour de Vendée, where he finished ninth behind winner Arnaud Démare – left a lasting, indelible imprint on professional cycling over the past 14 seasons.
That crazy spring of 2010, when he burst onto the scene barely out of his teens, and looked capable of anything. 121 pro wins. The devastating all-round ability. The record seven green jerseys at the Tour de France. 12 Tour stages. The Hulk celebration. Paris-Roubaix. The nonchalant, magnetic charm. The Tour of Flanders. The droll, often trolling interviews. Three consecutive rainbow jerseys. The wheelies. The Grease video. The uphill kick. The genuine superstar status.
It’s perhaps funny to think about it now in 2023, in an era where prodigious 20-year-olds with the potential to win on all kinds of terrain are being snapped up by pro teams left, right, and centre. But Sagan, a storm of excitement and charism in the middle of a Sky’s soporific spell of dominance, was one of a kind during the 2010s, an all-round sensation in an era where specialism still reigned supreme.
He could win bunch sprints at the Tour, contest for classics, escape in the mountains, and attack at will. Along with making him the perfect green jersey contender, it was that capacity to win almost any race he wanted to which meant, ironically – especially considering the number of races he did win – that Sagan perhaps ends his career now having not won as much as his natural ability suggested he should have.
The tendency for rivals to mark him out, following his every move, no matter the parcours was there from the outset.
On a Pyrenean stage of his first Tour de France in 2012 – a race in which he won three stages and finished in the top three a further four times, nabbing his maiden green jersey in the process – Sagan infiltrated the break of the day.
For a rider battling in the bunch kicks with Cavendish, he climbed the double-digit gradients of the Mur de Péguère with ease, demonstrating that he was indeed the strongest rider in the world. But his breakaway companions knew it too – every attack was closely followed, every encouragement to work together in the chase denied.
In the end, arch-break sniffer Luis León Sánchez nipped away to take a solo win in Foix. Sagan, naturally, won the sprint behind for second.
And so it remained for much of the rest of the decade, as arguably lesser riders nabbed big wins as Sagan was suffocated behind by the fear of his competitors.
It’ll remain one of cycling’s great ironies that Peter Sagan – the greatest male rider of the 2010s – could well have won more if he had turned pro in 2020.
Because now, through Van Aert, Van der Poel, Pogačar, and the rest, there are several Sagans in the peloton, the glass ceiling of specialism well and truly smashed in by talent hoping to win no matter the date, and no matter the course.
The Slovakian, if he were a new kid on the block in 2023, would arguably not be as marked out in this hypothetical scenario as he was in his mid-2010s heyday, a fact of racing during that period that makes the manner in which he bludgeoned his way to those era-defining victories all the more remarkable.
As another season of cycling’s all-rounder renaissance ends, so does the road career of the man who established the blueprint.
I reckon he’s earned a year or two of racing on knobbly tyres, eh? Rozlúčka, Peter.
A quick update from Dave, and another round of apologies, on the niggling issues affecting the site in recent weeks. Hopefully we can see the light at the end of the tunnel…
You might have noticed that the website has been running a little on the slow side recently, and navigating between pages, especially when logged in with a road.cc account, has been particularly difficult. We’ve definitely noticed too, as it’s made working on the website pretty tricky and frustrating these last two weeks.
We’ve been experiencing a number of issues with the server over that time and the exact cause of them has been hard to pin down. The ChatGPT bot (and some others) hoovering up a fair bit of the server’s bandwidth certainly wasn’t helping, and we’ve blocked those, but the root cause of the slowness looks to be down at the database/application level and we’re still hunting for the fix. We haven’t released anything new to the site in the past few weeks, so the reason why the site has suddenly slowed is unclear.
What can you do?
The site currently works better if you’re logged out, because a lot of the time you’ll be seeing cached pages that aren’t directly from the affected server. Obviously you can’t comment if you’re not logged in, but you’ll probably find the site easier to navigate. Other than that, it’s mostly going to be a case of being patient with us. We're really sorry for the continued disruption and are confident the site will be back up to speed soon.
— Anna Mac 👑🪱 🌈🖤 (@AnnamacB) October 2, 2023
Ah, that’s the face of a man who’s just remembered he’s travelling home with Ryanair…
Not that a disgruntled check-in attendant will do much to ruin Simon Carr’s mood, of course. The 25-year-old Brit sealed the deal at the weekend on his first ever career GC victory at the Tour de Langkawi, his solo win on the summit finish of Genting Highlands, ahead of EF teammate Jefferson Cepeda, ensuring he would get his hands on cycling’s most needlessly large trophy.
I’m sure it’ll look great on the mantel, Simon…
After Rishi Sunak unveiled his ‘Plan for Motorists’ last week, unleashing a maelstrom of, ahem, interesting feedback, it was the turn of Transport Secretary Mark Harper this morning to officially unveil the government’s plans ahead of the upcoming election, featuring a questionable and quite often fact-free take on “blanket” 20mph zones, ULEZ, and of Labour’s plans to “stop you getting from A to B how you choose” (despite, of course, that most of the active travel initiatives of the past decade are very firmly Tory-led policies. Not that they’ll mention that, of course).
Kicking his speech off with an obligatory reference to the Uxbridge by-election (the “inspiration” for all these pro-car policies, apparently), Harper then told the half-empty conference room that “for most people, the most important mode of transport remains the car, the van, the lorry, the motorbike”.
He continued: “But from listening to certain corners of the metropolitan bubble, you would think that owning a car was immoral, a dirty habit, an optional extra in people’s lives. Politicians like Sir Keir Starmer, Sadiq Khan, and Mark Drakeford are only interested in the short term, taking the easy way out, and making decisions that hammer motorists to seek praise from the social media and London newspapers.”
I see they’re not handing out irony pills at the Tory conference, anyway…
“It’s the Conservative party,” he continued, “which is proudly pro-car.”
A light smattering of applause, more danger on the roads, the environment in tatters – job’s a good ‘un, eh Mark?
Meanwhile, just before Harper’s speech, we reported this morning that active travel commissioner Chris Boardman has urged Rishi Sunak to “just stick with” policies promoting cycling and walking.
The former Olympic champion also noted that the language used by Sunak as part of his plans – including calling schemes such as low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and 20mph zones “hare-brained” and saying that he was committed to “slamming the brakes on the war on motorists” – was “not the language I would choose” and called on the government to also announce “sensational active travel policy”.
Judging from this picture taken this week on Nelson St, it appears that cycling or walking this way on bin day won’t be a good idea! We object to the unauthored loading bay – find out more on our website and add your voice before closing date (2nd Oct). https://t.co/lNdFC5rj4T pic.twitter.com/ChdOuhupL4
— Bristol 🧡 Cycling (@BristolCycling) September 30, 2023
Bristol here, vying with Belfast for the coveted ‘Bike lane full of bins’ crown…
Missed the weekend’s cycling news because you were too busy out on your bike enjoying the early autumn sunshine?
Well, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered…
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.