IT'S A KNOCKOUT
In terms of brutality, the Rumble on San Lorenzo was not quite Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier or Arturo Gatti vs Micky Ward.
Instead, the exchange of unpleasantries between Gianluca Brambilla and Ivan Rovny was more akin to two newborn kittens mewling and pawing at each other as they compete for their mother’s attention.
The matriarch of stage 16 of the Vuelta a España was, unfortunately, the race commissaire who, after an hour or so of deliberation, decided to remove both riders from the race.
Such a bizarre scene surely deserved a more imaginative outcome. For one, it was particularly unfair on poor Rovny, who clearly came off worse from the fisticuffs.
The Russian’s glasses were broken by Brambilla, forcing him to return to Steven de Jongh in the Tinkoff-Saxo team car for a new pair – rather like the incessantly picked-upon runt of the school classroom who invariably finds himself punished for being beaten up.
There is surely potential here to broaden cycling’s appeal to include gnarled, bloodthirsty combat sports fans in addition to lycra-clad aficionados and slumbering nonagenarians who have accidentally left Eurosport running past the German Open snooker.
What if Chris Froome’s “knockout blow” in the 2013 Tour de France had been delivered, not through a stinging seated acceleration on Mont Ventoux, but an equally painful right hook to Nairo Quintana as the two went through Chalet Reynard?
Immediately all sorts of ludicrous possibilities open up. Fabian Cancellara, key to the hopes of Carlos Sastre in the 2008 Tour de France, not just for his ability to pound out a rhythm up the climbs, but for his pounding heavyweight fists. Jan Ullrich, desperately gaining weight instead of trying to shed it during the winter to land a literal early-season knockout blow to Lance Armstrong at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Joaquim Rodriguez, of course, was way ahead of me and the unfortunate Brambilla and Rovny. A day before their tiff, Philip Deignan claims that the pint-sized Spanish climber bopped him in the face like a pent-up super bantamweight on fight night at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall.
“As we continued riding, suddenly, out of the blue, Rodriguez turned towards me and punched me full in the face, splitting my lip and leaving me both stunned and fuming,” Deignan wrote in his column in the Irish Independent.
Perhaps Rodriguez, in his frustration at continually coming up short in Grand Tours, pre-empted our advice and opted for a change in career to something a little more violent and tempestuous.
We can certainly glean two things from this Spanish boxing show-cum-cycle race. Firstly, if you’re going to spar, don’t do it in a breakaway – after all, you’re there to be seen in the first place so it’s quite likely you will be noticed.
Secondly, just as in football and celebrity entertainment, you can break the rules if you’re a big name. Poor Rovny was shown a red card for little more than a slap, whilst Rodriguez appears to have got away with assault.
Personally, I’m just waiting for the seniors to go at it. “Mr 60 Per Cent” Bjarne Riis vs “Sir” Dave Brailsford, with Oleg Tinkov as the hilariously biased WWE-style referee? Let’s get ready to rumble…
STAT’S THE WAY, UH HUH, UH HUH
1 – Number of Polish stage wins in Vuelta a España history, thanks to Przemysław Niemiec’s victory on stage 15 this year.
Will we be seeing Sir Brad in similar attire come the final stage this year?
Purring chains, whirring gears and whistling wheels, all gloriously commentary-free.
"And now, the 3,000 mile dash is on." Hectic pathé footage from this Tour of yore.