Graeme Brown – a dirty sprinter?

Yesterday saw Robbie Hunter (Garmin-Transitions) winning the second stage of the Vuelta a Murcia. The South African beat Rabobank’s Aussie Graeme Brown. Soon after crossing the line Hunter twittered:

So another good day in the office!I’m pretty happy.Brown not happy after the stage said I put him in the barriers.what a joke!!! Maybe that’s why the Jury told him to go play when he lodged a complaint.all from the guy who has a rep as being a crazy sprinter.

Note the allegation that Brown can be “a crazy sprinter”. Is this true?

Well I’ve gone through a press trawl and searched for Brown alongside words like “disqualified”, “declassified”, “relegated” and “jury”, I’ve done the same in French too, the official UCI language, for “déclassé” too. Brown’s name only appears a few times and no more than other riders. In other words, as much as riders point the finger at Brown, few UCI commissaires are as quick to nail him for dangerous riding.

My theory on this is that Brown simply doesn’t win enough. Therefore he is not heralded as a big rider in the sport and others feel free to dump on him, to point the finger. By contrast, when Cavendish was rumbled for putting Hushovd into the barriers during the Tour de France, we didn’t hear many cries that Cav’s a dirty rider. That’s because he’s an influential rider, no one wants to cross him.

The trouble is once you get a reputation for riding dangerously then it can be hard to shift, especially if you can’t win a big race. If Brown won the Tour’s green jersey or landed Gent-Wevelgem then he’d always be know as “Brown the winner of Gent-Wevelgem…” instead of Mr Dangerous.

A sprinter like Cavendish also leads from the front, he doesn’t have to mix it with the other riders in the last 500 metres. The likes of Brown – and Hunter – have to pick their way to the front all the way towards the line, that’s much harder and the risks of collision, crash and commissaire problems are much higher.

Is Brown a dirty sprinter? The numbers say no. He’s made mistakes but I suspect it’s easy to pick on him. You can see youtube videos and perhaps I wouldn’t want his wheel in a sprint but he’s no worse than many others.

If you’ve got evidence that suggests otherwise, leave a comment.