Dodgy Celebrations & Martin at the Giro

Having been in Swansea for a family wedding all weekend, I missed the last three stages of the Tour of Romandie. Not wanting to be absolutely raped by O2, I chose not to avail of any data roaming whilst out of the country so I’ve been completely off the radar. This was my first trip abroad since buying an iPhone. I used to mock iPhone owners who constantly harp an about them (you didn’t invent the bloody thing!), but having spent a whole weekend with a phone in my pocket about as useful as a Nokia 3210, I can honestly say that I have now become everything I hate – an iPhone nerd.

The main (non drugs-related) news story I found upon my return to reality was that Cavendish had been withdrawn from the Tour of Romandie after Stage 3 following his two fingered victory salute the day before. I had given out about his celebration on the Irish Peloton facebook page, saying that if I had been watching the race with an 8 or 9 year old, trying to encourage them to appreciate cycling, I would be raging with Cavendish. The point was made to me that what the sprinter did is no worse than the spitting and diving we see every week in most football matches. While I agree that there’s plenty of unacceptable behaviour that goes on during football matches, Cavendish’s actions didn’t just take place throughout the course of a contest, it came at the moment of victory where the public exposure is at its highest. A more apt comparison to football would be the behaviour of a player after he has scored a goal or his reaction upon hearing the final whistle.

Mark Cavendish celebrates a stage win at the Tour of Romandie by sticking his fingers up at all his detractors.

Most football players choose to celebrate with outbursts of happiness, be it jumping for joy, high fiving and hugging team mates or sliding along the ground fist pumping. But some players over the years have chosen to do otherwise. Emanuel Adebayor this season scored a goal against his former employers Arsenal for his new club Man City and decided to run 100 yards to taunt the Arsenal fans by celebrating directly in front of them rather than his own fans. Gary Neville did the same while playing for Man United against Liverpool in 2006. Although Neville didn’t score the goal himself (he never does) he ran the length of the pitch to goad the Liverpool fans who are notorious for giving the full back constant abuse (after all, he does hate Scousers). Then there’s Didier Drogba who, after his Chelsea team were knocked out of the Champion’s League semi-final last year amidst controversial circumstances, he bellowed into a Sky Sports TV camera that the result was “a f***ing disgrace”. Or recall Robbie Fowler playing for Liverpool against Everton back in 1999. He had been getting abuse from Everton fans who were accusing him of cocaine abuse. In response to the taunts, he scored a goal against them and then celebrated by getting on his knees and crawling along the goal line while pretending to snort the white line. As a result of these reactions, Adebayor was fined £25,000 and given a suspended two match ban, Neville was fined £5,000, Drogba was banned for three games while his club was handed a fine of €100,000 and Fowler was fined £60,000 and was given a four match ban.

Although the FA are notorious for being inconsistent in such matters, the harshest punishments were rightly handed to Drogba and Fowler. Of the four players mentioned, their actions were directly inappropriate. While the other two player’s conduct was also inappropriate, it was the context of the celebrations which landed them in hot water and not the nature of the celebrations themselves. Moving away from goal celebrations, a further example of behaviour which is comparable to that of Cavendish was that of Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor while on Scotland duty. The pair had been dropped to the bench for a game against Iceland after being caught drinking heavily in the run up to the match. Both were subsequently caught on camera during the match flashing V-signs whilst sitting on the bench. Ferguson was stripped of the captaincy of his club team Glasgow Rangers, while both players were told they would never play for Scotland again.

And Mark Cavendish gets fined 6,000 Swiss Francs? He should count himself extremely lucky.

When I came back yesterday, I was saddened to hear the news of Nicolas Roche’s injury and subsequent withdrawal from the Tour of Romandie. He withdrew after the time trial on Friday with a suspected torn muscle in the back of his knee. This will throw his Tour de France preparations into disarray. He is slated to ride the Dauphiné Libéré in June before going on to partake in his 2nd Tour de France. If the injury doesn’t abate soon and allow him to return to full training, his participation in the Dauphiné may be in jeopardy. The Tour de Suisse which starts a few days later could also be a backup option, but if Roche fails to start either of these Tour preparation races it will be unlikely he will make the Tour team. Although his AG2R team will be desperate for their young Irishman to be at the Tour because two of their other big stars may not be there. Rinaldo Nocentini, who wore the yellow jersey at last year’s Tour suffered a broken leg back in February. He has stated his desire to part of the Tour team but has only recently resumed his rehabilitation. The other AG2R rider who will not be part of the Tour de France is Tadej Valjavec who has finished in the top 10 of both the Giro and the Tour. Valjavec is one of the riders along with Franco Pellizotti and Rosendo Prado who are being investigated after their biological passport returned abnormal values.

It was also announced while I was away that Dan Martin will start the Giro d’Italia this weekend. It was not explicitly announced that this means he would not be part of the Garmin-Transitions Tour de France team as a result. However, as still a realtively young rider, it is unlikely that Jonathan Vaughters would ask him to ride in July in what would be then his 3rd Grand Tour in a row, having ridden the Vuelta last September.

I had already expressed how undecided I was over whether I want Martin to ride the Tour, where he would be employed as a domestique for Christian Vande Velde, or the Giro where he would be the team’s G.C. leader. While it would be great to have all three Irishman at the Tour in July, perhaps it is better to have the Irish talent spread across more Grand Tours. After all, it will be more exciting for Irish supporters to cheer on Martin giving his all at the Giro rather than expending himself totally for a team mate at the Tour and falling back before the final climb. The Giro d’Italia gets underway this Saturday with an individual time trial around Amsterdam. Dan Martin will be wearing number 117. Let’s hope he can put in a great performance in his first Giro d’Italia.

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