It's not a Tour without some Heartbreak
July 3, 2013 7:06 AM   Subscribe

Ted King, everyman cyclist from New Hampshire and Middlebury Alum, riding with a separated shoulder, was cut from the 100th Edition of the Tour de France after missing the time cut during the Team Time Trial by 7 seconds.

A colorful cyclist with a large fan base, this was Ted's first time riding the Tour de France.

Many in the cycling community believe this sends the wrong message by not respecting hard work and suffering, especially in today's cleaner sport.

Ted's Fans, taking to Twitter and other forms of Social Media, lobbied Cycling's Governing Body, the UCI, in very creative ways, urging them to allow Ted to continue.

In prior years, certain groups of Sprinters have been allowed to continue even when falling outside the time cut limit.

Alas, the Race Organizers did not bend the rules and Ted did not start the race this morning.
posted by fredericsunday (28 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I confess there is a lot (pretty much everything in fact about cycling scoring that I don't understand, but I deal with this with student papers all the time -- there has to be a cut off somewhere, and someone will always be on the wrong side of it. As long as the cut off is applied fairly and evenly, there is no complaint. If you are judging by a metric other than effort, then effort is not a issue in judging. Because every racer has a story, I am sure, although, perhaps, not so dramatic, and most of them could think of reasons why the judging criteria should be bent for them, too.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:17 AM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Especially after the cluster%uck of stage one, where they couldn't even get the finish line sorted out they should have let him stay.
posted by cccorlew at 7:18 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

GenjiandProust, you need to read the links. There are often exceptions, it isn't like he's asking for a huge exception.
posted by cccorlew at 7:20 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are often exceptions

In the links there's one exception, the group of 88 odd riders that were allowed to return after missing the cut in 2011.

Allowing 88 riders back in after missing the cut due to a brutal stage is not the same as letting one back in after he missed the cut due to injury. That's why they have a jury.

C'est la vie.
posted by fatfrank at 7:35 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is really heart breaking because the rule is designed to prevent riders who get disconnected from the main race to soft pedal (and thereby recover unfairly) instead of fighting to the end. Ted King rode an average of 28 miles per hour and gave it everything he had, but he was injured from a crash on stage one. It is the kind of injury he would get better with day by day and he would ride strong in the finishing week by most accounts.

The rule is meant to keep the race honest so that racers don't bag it when their luck turns sour, but they are punishing someone who embodies a lot of the good qualities of racing. It makes no sense to be so hard line about the rule and to ignore its spirit.
posted by dgran at 7:42 AM on July 3, 2013

It's a bummer, because King is such a hard working cyclist. He has no palmares to speak of. His job isn't to win races. It's to enter races, protect his teammates, ride back to the team car, fill up his jersey with water bottles, and ride back to the group distributing bottles to teammates. And, toward the end of the race, it's his job to once again protect his chosen teammate and move them into position to get a good result.

You have to be strong as a bull to do this.

It's a bummer because he's a fan favorite, a winning personality, and he's New England's boy-done-good. It's a bummer because it's his first Tour, at the age of 30. It's a bummer because ultimately it's due to the outlandish clusterfuck of Stage 1

And while I hoped that the organizers would have some leniency with the time cut, I have no outrage that they didn't. It's a bummer, but ultimately they're following the rule there.
posted by entropone at 7:48 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I just read on, via their live report of today's stage, that Ted King was indeed not allowed to start the stage. He and others had hoped for a last minute reprieve, but it wasn't granted.

I don't think I'm the only one who isn't interested in today's results. I'll probably start caring again after this weekend, but I feel pretty insulted by the Tour officials right now. This isn't like some poor call by an umpire -- it is stubborn malice.
posted by dgran at 7:52 AM on July 3, 2013

I became a fan of Ted through his column in Bicycling Magazine. He's a good rider AND a good writer - this really sucks -
posted by jalexei at 8:01 AM on July 3, 2013

It's one thing to miss the cut on a regular stage, and to get a reprieve for various reasons (weather, collisions, other race interruptions, etc.). I do also think that there are times when more popular sprinters *cough*Cavendish*cough* have got off too easy. A team time trial is a different though- it's all about getting your timing and pacing right, and getting your top five riders over the line. Without a time cut, you'd just have support riders burying themselves on the early part of the course, and then rolling over the line whenever.

It is heartbreaking for King though, especially when the sport has such a history of celebrating riders who've overcome extreme circumstances.

Especially after the cluster%uck of stage one, where they couldn't even get the finish line sorted out they should have let him stay.

Ah yes, the old "jam the team bus under the timing gate" tactic. I remember when Peugeot tried that back in the '65 tour. Of course, it didn't work then either, and Rik Van Looy won the stage.

Also, if Johnny Hoogerland didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have luck at all.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:35 AM on July 3, 2013

Ah, that sucks, but I understand the decision.
posted by OmieWise at 8:57 AM on July 3, 2013

He was injured, he didn't make the time cut, no need to turn it into a vanity campaign. To be fair, I don't really give a crap about off-bike personas, and there's always next year. He's young.
posted by rhizome at 9:09 AM on July 3, 2013

Wasn't there a Tour stage a few years ago in which the majority of the peloton (including the GC favorites) finished outside the time cut because of a huge breakaway lead? Or am I misremembering?

King should have been allowed to start. That Stage 1 crash was nasty, and had it affected anybody else with a somewhat higher Euro profile, the officials would have definitely looked the other way.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:14 AM on July 3, 2013

How could it be a vanity campaign? King didn't do any campaigning for himself or really encourage anybody to do anything.

So, people doing the campaigning were campaigning for somebody else - King.

Which is pretty much the opposite of vanity.
posted by entropone at 9:17 AM on July 3, 2013

Or on preview (duh), what fatfrank said.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:17 AM on July 3, 2013

To us and the jury, it's only a bike race. To Ted, it's a calling, a lifelong dream and a living. He was riding a race that would kill most people, in a condition that would see most people whining from a hospital bed. They should have let him stay, it's only a bike race.
posted by klanawa at 9:19 AM on July 3, 2013

It's a bummer because ultimately it's due to the outlandish clusterfuck of Stage 1


According to the rules of the team time trial: the finishing time is based on the 5th rider of the team, out of a total of 9 riders per team

I think I was the decision of the team to drop him. They could have assigned another rider to escort him to make sure he finishes the stage within time limits. But, the finishing time of the whole team would have been negatively affected by the loss of another rider, thats why they chose to sacrifice King and hope for the best.
posted by racingjs at 9:23 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, while stage 1 was a clusterfuck, the ASO neutralized the results. The crash might just as easily have happened without the confusion over the line, etc. Crashes happen in bunch sprints. Again, it is terrible luck, but that's the Tour.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:27 AM on July 3, 2013

What results were neutralized? Not the Stage, GC, or Points, that I'm aware of.
posted by entropone at 9:30 AM on July 3, 2013

A stage winner was declared, but everyone received the same time. Points were awarded for the green and mountains jerseys.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:56 AM on July 3, 2013

Ah, I'd assumed that the same time was due to the 3km rule, but you're right. Interesting - that communicates "okay we're going to try to waive some of the effects of the Stage 1 Misfortune," but that doesn't extend to the effects of injuries a few days later.
posted by entropone at 10:25 AM on July 3, 2013

GenjiandProust, you need to read the links. There are often exceptions, it isn't like he's asking for a huge exception.

I did read most of the links. The point is that, if there is any exception, it's always a huge exception, because it means there is no real standard -- almost everyone who misses the cut can come up with reasons why they should be given slack. If you say 7 seconds is no big deal, is 8? 9? 10? Where do you draw the line?

This sounds like a sucky situation, but is it really true that cycling organizations routinely change rules to address individual cyclist's situations? The business with the bus is kind of irrelevant -- the organization should be liable for mucking up the race and injuring a bunch of cyclists, but I just don't see how that should translate into changing the rules for one rider, no matter how popular.

If cycling organizations do routinely change rules for individual cyclists, I am not sure how cycling is even a sport....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:51 AM on July 3, 2013

but that doesn't extend to the effects of injuries a few days later.

Well King wasn't the only one inconvenienced in that crash- I'm sure Cavendish, Greipel, and Sagan all would have liked to have been in the sprint, and Sagan might nearly have received a worse injury to boot. And right before then, Hoogerland and several other riders went into poorly-placed advertising hoardings.

Of course, Hoogerland was given the benefit of a waived time limit back in 2011, after his ass beat up that barbed wire fence, and given the most combative rider for the stage as well, for riding through significant injury. However, that was the result of an incident which happened on that day's stage, when he and Flecha were taken out by the mystery television car. Like I said, if he didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have luck at all.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:18 PM on July 3, 2013

It's worth repeating: crashes happen.

Crashes happen at all level of cycling races, even at the professional level; I have the scars to prove it. In grand tours like the TDF, nasty crashes are especially likely to occur in the first stages, which finish in a group sprint at 70+ kph in narrow streets after a lead out of about 10km at 50+ kph. The nervousness of the riders in the first days of a grand tour is also to blame.

The stuck bus caused some confusion, but it did not cause the crash. Crashes happen.

There WILL be other crashes, other injured riders unable to finish a stage or unable to start in the next day’s stage. It’s sad for Ted King, but he’s injured, and his injuries prevents him deliver the performance required to compete in a grand tour.

No amount of twitter or strava followers should change that.

At 30 years old, Ted will have other opportunities to race the tour de France. To put his age in context, Svein Tuft also started his 1st tour de France this year at 36. Jens Voigt is still racing the tour at 41.
posted by racingjs at 12:18 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Bad luck happens all the time. Most of the pre-race favorites of the Tour who go on to lose it suffer from bad luck in one form or another. In this case his own team dropped him.

Conversely, you don't win the tour by being "lucky."

I rode in the follow car at the 1985 Giro, the first Grand Tour for an American team, 7/eleven, whose coach (Mike Neel) was and is a good friend. At these races there is an honor (but not an official prize) called the "Lanterne Rouge," which is given to the last place finisher in the GC.

I was dismissive of the LR as a joke until a friend of mine (Rick Baldwin) took it home after the 1982 Coors Classic. I saw what it took for him to make the cut every day, a sprinter in a mountain race. He turned himself inside out to finish inside the limit so he could be there when the team needed his specialty, a lonely rider struggling up the hills by himself.

In short, the Lanterne Rouge is given to a guy who suffers more than everyone else, AND DOESN'T QUIT. It is an award for courage.

Last year the Lanterne Rouge went to Tyler Farrar, the first time an American took it home.
posted by Repack Rider at 2:19 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

So riders with lots of Twitter followers should get a break, but those that don't shouldn't?
posted by notme at 3:56 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Eliminating King, in a time when the sport desperately seeks credibility, sends the wrong message to cycling fans.

As bad as I feel for King, sticking to the rules, especially in the small things, is what adds credibility to a sport, especially during a time when way too many have slipped through the cracks in recent years. Credibility is established by an insistence that there are standards, and that they can be trusted to be evenly applied to all participants. The last thing you want in a sport are rulings that seem to grant special exceptions under the "right kind of circumstances."
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:00 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Mark my words, there was something suspect in Chris Froome's illegal feedbag on Mt Vonteux today.
posted by ardgedee at 7:30 AM on July 14, 2013

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