The rules of sprinting, video edition

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Visconti and Ulissi

Earlier in the Giro d’Italia we saw a dispute between Mark Cavendish and Alessandro Petacchi, and it was a moment for me to cite the relevant rules on sprinting, both written and unwritten. But below there’s a great video from Cosmo Catalano that sets everything in visual clarity.

Wednesday’s stage from Feltre to Tirano saw yet another controversy and this time a relegation. Giovanni Visconti and Diego Ulissi sprinted for the win with the veteran Pablo Lastras close behind. Ulissi drifted left but Visconti tried to find a gap and finding the door closed, started pushing Ulissi. In the end, Visconti was relegated to third place for pushing but Ulissi was unpunished despite drifting a little. Why? Well because Visconti pushed and slight movement from Ulissi is ok.

If anything maybe Visconti’s Sicilian temperament got the better of him. Instead of pushing and shouting he could have played it cool and claimed he was forced to sit up in order to avoid being driven into the barriers.

But if you want a general reference to sprinting then instead of me citing the rules, here’s the best analysis possible from Cyclocosm:

It’s detailed, precise and the video footage is excellent. If a picture says a thousand words, this is worth 10,000 words. It shows the flexibility of judgement and that some “techniques” work one day but not another.

A final point to note is that video replays matter. It’s this evidence that gets used by the race jury in order to award the win, or disqualify a rider.

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{ 14 comments }

Jason May 26, 2011 at 1:18 am

That’s a fantastic video – I wonder if someone should show it to Robbie McEwen however? What a feature ;)

Oliver May 26, 2011 at 1:57 am

Cosmo at his best; wish he could do more of these — and some htrww for good measure. I enjoyed the videos so much I even got one of his cool “STOP LANCE” T-shirts. Selling T-shirts and the like to support a site is by the way a pretty cool alternative to advertising, imho. Probably bring in less dough, though…

Gillis May 26, 2011 at 6:02 am

I would buy a well designed INRNG t-shirt

Nick May 26, 2011 at 6:11 am

That incident with Cav and Hushovd still infuriates me

diamondjim May 26, 2011 at 7:14 am

Speaking of ads (and as some feedback), I’ve been in contact with Strada Handbuilt Wheels and got excellent customer service. Unfortunately, the tasty hoops we specced were going to cost 175 pounds sterling to freight to Oz, which was a show-stopper :-(

beev May 26, 2011 at 9:27 am

re Cav/Hushovd – the barriers never deviated from their original position!

The course had a kink in it, and as such you have to view the course as a series of lanes – and Cav crossed the line between lanes (whether you view the lanes as narrowing or merging to account for the pinch point is open to discussion – but with respect to the latter you don’t merge lanes on the blind side into barriers). His anger at the decision comes from everything going wrong that day – not least being totally compromised in trying to win a sprint as slowly as possible….

James Moffat May 26, 2011 at 10:05 am

The issue in the sprint for today was that Visconti was completely to blame. He was out wide accelerating before completely changing his line getting behind Ulissis wheel and then trying to get past him on the inside when the outside was available. For such an experienced pro it was a very amateur like sprint

Rider Council May 26, 2011 at 11:32 am

Yes but what you dont see on TV is the wind. Pack all the pressure a ‘campione’ like Visconti puts on himself into 15 seconds and then find yourself within 100 meters of a Giro stage win, only to see an ole trick being played right before you. Not to mention the primordial instinct to protect yourself kicking in as you calculate the risk. Sicilian or not temperament has nothing to do with it, we all can buckle under pressure like that. He is considerate, intelligent, articulate and one of the few gentleman in the bunch these days, but racing is a rawer form of expression. He was wrong but Ulissi pulled a slimy slippery sprint, ‘furbo’ as they say. It was written all over his face the moment he pulled up to RAI camera men.

Mickey McMook May 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Sorry but Cosmo doesn’t understand the rules. First of all, each jury interprets the rules differently.
Finish line judge makes the first ruling, president of jury decides Yay or Nay. Pro sprinting has much looser application of rules than say track or U23. Second, the rule intends deviation from the FRONT.
If you lead out and deviate too much, relegation. If you come from behind and pass everybody like the Saxo rider did, that is totally legal as long as you do not deviate too much. Ulissi was just on the edge yesterday but as Silvio Martinelli explained in his analysis on RAI-TV, Viscontil got nervous and out of position and shouldn’t have tried to come by on the inside. Just like Cav tried on Petacchi. It’s called
closing the door…

MT Dave May 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I’m in North America and I see the ad for multiple companies, but if I click on it, I only go to Strada. Probably unimportant.

Visconti went looking in the wrong place. He had the speed, too bad he tried to pass on the barrier side.

Starr May 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Visconti is peeved at his own mistake and too proud to admit it.

Ulissi did exactly what he was supposed to do and got lucky that Visconti sprinted like a newb.

cosmo May 26, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Thanks for the link/hat-tip!

Just getting around to the video of yesterday’s finish now. Definitely looks to me like Visconti picked the wrong side and got bottled up, a lot like what happened to Chavanel at Flanders.

Ulissi kept a pretty steady distance from the barriers, unlike Bettini in the Giro clip from my video. It’s always tough to judge on tape, but I get the feeling a guy like McEwen might have been able to find a way through that gap.

I’m not sure hands-off-the-bars was what got Visconti the (fairly light) sanction so much as making the rougher side of sprinting so apparent. As Mark Renshaw found out at last year’s Tour, being obvious with your jockeying can count heavily against you.

What really surprised me is that they both stopped pedaling and yelled at each other before the finish—until they’re absolutely blocked, the top sprinters tend to have tunnel vision for the line regardless of what else goes on. There was a crash back on (I think) Stage 3 at the ’03 Tour where Baden Cooke, McEwen, and Rene Haselbacher find themselves three abreast where there’s only space for two. They all stop pedaling for about half a second, Haselbacher goes down, and Cookie and Robbie get right back to cranking like nothing happend.

Rider Council May 27, 2011 at 1:03 am

When Ulissi started his sprint he launched into the middle of the left half of the finishing straight. A few seconds and a hundred odd meters later and he is now in the middle of half of that again. He knew what he was doing and he began to drift when he sensed Visconti had committed to that side. There was a strong headwind and it was coming from the right, according to the riders and commentators that were actually there. He knew well where the challenge was probably going to come from the fastest guy, he even said that. That move forced Visconti dangerously close to the barriers, not easy for us to sense how close but I believe that caused him to loose his head and the stage. Compare it with the Cav and Petacchi situation and the only difference is Cav did not get locked in because Petacchi shut the door a little harder. Sprints are best won by the fastest guy, blocking just aint cool no matter what way you dice it. The sore looser is the desperate sprinter.

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