As the peloton wound its way along the glorious Pacific Coast Highway towards Morro Bay on stage 4 of the Tour of California, yellow jersey Tejay van Garderen suffered the first of several indignities during a chaotic day at the races.
Hitting the deck with 7km remaining, Lachlan Morton was quickly at hand to surrender his bike to his EF Education First team leader. So far, so good.
Then a tight right-hander saw the hapless 2013 California winner shooting straight on, wrestling Morton’s machine to stay in control, while his three pink-clad helpers sailed clean round the bend.
His misfortune in this incident appears to stem from brake cable routing. Van Garderen favours the American style (left lever, front). Unfortunately, his Australian buddy Morton goes with what is traditionally the British set-up (right lever, front).
As The Smiths asked back in 1984: “What difference does it make?”
Quite a lot, actually, Morrissey, you silly man on your punctured bicycle.
A few years back, I was loaned a lovely steel machine to ride the Gran Fondo Fausto Coppi in beautiful Piedmont. “Be very careful on the descent of the Fauniera,” I was told. “It is treacherous.”
The mountain is otherwise known as Colle dei Morti, or ‘pass of the dead’, which should have proved sufficient warning…
Sure enough, hammering round a tight bend that proved to be somewhat tighter than expected, I grabbed the front brake – only to find it was, of course, the back one. In a panic, I squeezed harder, exacerbating the skid already in motion. In an instant, the bike had turned 180 degrees and blown out the rear tyre. The only upside to the situation was not hitting the deck.
The tyre was ruined. On a hillside desolate… Who’s laughing now, Morrissey?
Scratching my head, trying to figure out what to do next, another unfortunate rider came haring round the corner but was unable to hold it up. The horrible sound of bike and human scraping along the road followed.
Clutching his bloodied leg, the poor chap said he’d be clambering in the ambulance when it arrived.
“Lend me your tyre then, will you?” I blurted, attempting to triumph over adversity – mostly his. The dazed and confused fella never stood a chance, as I wrestled his front wheel away, gave him all the money in my pocket and got back on the road in minutes, thanking him profusely.
Texting him hours later, attempting to return the loaned rubber and buy the man a beer, he replied that he’d forgotten all about it and was already en route home to Switzerland. “Pass a good deed on to someone else,” he wrote, magnanimously.
And the moral of the story? Never use a bike with brakes routed incorrectly. It may be an almighty faff, but switching them around the day before will make your day much safer.
And if you desperately need a tyre due to a mishap, I’m here for you, much like Lachlan Morton was there for Tejay van Garderen. Just be sure to fit it the right way round.