On Stage 6 of the Tour of California Mark Cavendish crashed in the final few laps, fought back to regain the group and went on to win the race. Unfortunately, the race officials relegated Cavendish for drafting team cars to regain the bunch. As I pointed out then it is very common for riders involved in a crash or mechanical to draft the team cars to get back to the peloton. This isn't the case of a rider who was tired getting a tow to the line; it was the case of a rider who suffered an unfortunate circumstance and was just trying to make it right. Race officials in Europe clearly understand this and allow drafting team cars to regain the field after a mechanical or a crash.
Yesterday at the Tour de Georgia, a bunch of riders were taken down when their wheels were swallowed up by large cracks in the concrete roadway. I had this happen to me one at 40+mph while motorpacing in preparation for the National Championships and it is not pleasant. If a crack in the concrete runs the direction of travel and is wider than the width of a wheel the crack can swallow a wheel and a rider can go down. That's exactly what happened and three riders in the Tour of Georgia went down hard. While two got up quickly, one did not. Tim Duggan of Slipstream Sports suffered major head trauma and was taken to a hospital in Atlanta. I have ridden with Tim and he is a great guy. Here's wishing Tim a full and speedy recovery.
The two riders who were able to continue were still about a minute behind the main field. George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer went to the front of the field and slowed things down to allow everyone to sort themselves out and in a few minutes the two riders were able to regain the peloton. But, wait. At the finish, race officials penalized the two riders for drafting their team cars to regain the pack. Nonsense. Do those officials have no heart? Do they not understand how the game is played on the biggest stage in the world(Europe)? Have they missed the spirit of the competition?
Bike racing is hard enough, even harder if you do it as a pro. Heartless race officials just make it that more difficult for riders to do their jobs. I just don't understand why the officials don't understand the spirit of the rule and apply it as such. The rule was put in place to stop riders who get dropped because they aren't fast enough to keep up. The rule is not there to punish riders who flat or get caught in a crash. Show some heart and don't penalize riders for circumstances outside their control. The riders race their guts out. They need to be shown a bit of compassion that comes with the respect for what they do.