No bike race is complete without some outside interference, says Dr Hutch
One of the standard bits of advice for spectators at a bike race is to keep dogs on a lead.
The reason for this is, you’d think, pretty obvious: to stop dogs running into the road and causing crashes.
This was not a view subscribed to by the dog walker at Tirreno-Adriatico who almost did for Peter Sagan.
Since she had the dog on a lead, the only way it could cause chaos would be if she accompanied it to the middle of the road. So she did.
As I watched I suddenly remembered the same thing happening to me at the World Championships in 2012.
I hadn’t recalled it at any point in the intervening five years.
I’d imagine I forgot because if you’re used to racing on roads that are open to other non-race traffic, as is the norm in the UK, events like this are so common that they vanish into the fog of breathless adrenaline.
Rogue dogs, horses, cars… you leave them behind very easily.
One acquaintance finished a race in North Yorkshire a few years ago and only remembered he’d been shot with an air pistol from a passing car when he noticed a hole in his right buttock that hadn’t been there when he started.
On the buses
Some interventions, however, are hard to forget.
At the National 100-mile TT Champs in 2005, there was a vintage bus rally happening down the road.
On a downhill stretch I got overtaken very, very gradually, by an elderly Routemaster.
On the platform was a man in a period conductor’s uniform. Coughing on diesel fumes and anxious to know if they’d be getting off the road, I asked him if they were going to the rally.
“Of course we’re going to the bleeding rally,” he said. “Do you think we leaked through a wormhole from 1955? Where are you going?”
I explained I was in a bicycle race.
“How’s it going?” he said.
“I’m winning,” I told him.
“Good show. I suppose you’d like us to get out of your way?” He rang the bell to get the driver to pull over.
“It’s his bus, and he absolutely hates me ringing the bell,” the conductor explained gleefully.
I also remember very clearly a race in Ireland that almost came to grief when two elderly nuns in a Ford Fiesta pulled out of a side road, behind the race escort but just in front of the bunch.
We all managed to stay upright. Then for 10 miles, until they turned off again, the nuns drove along at 25mph with 150 riders tucked in quietly behind them.
No one was prepared to start the swearing. The commissaires didn’t want to invite eternal damnation either, because nuns are the only thing commissaires are scared of.
I’d be prepared to guarantee that the nuns themselves had no idea any of us were even there, because nuns never use the rear view mirror.
But even on open roads often the best trouble is still with a nice traditional dog.
A college friend called Arthur once blew spectacularly towards the end of a 100-mile event.
He was creeping agonisingly towards the finish when he was overtaken by a teenage girl on a bike, complete with a dog in a basket.
“Are you in the race?” the girl asked. He denied it. He denied knowing that there was a race happening. He denied ever having heard of bike racing.
“Oh. I just wondered, since you’re wearing a race number and everything,” she said innocently.
She rode away, on up the road in front of him. The dog panted back at him happily.
I know several people who’ve been knocked off by a dog, and several more like Sagan and myself who’ve had to swerve to avoid them.
Arthur is still the only man I know who’s been dropped by one.