Dr Hutch calls ‘foul’ on the idea of a subs’ bench for Grand Tours
One of the more arresting of the off-season stories was a suggestion a couple of weeks ago from Eusebio Unzué, the manager of the Movistar team, that cycling should allow substitutions in Grand Tours, “as happens in any other sport”. He wanted teams to be able to replace injured riders, at least during the first week, and to allow tired riders to miss a couple of stages and rejoin the race afterwards.
This idea probably didn’t get the attention it deserved. If nothing else the idea that it might be used for any purpose other than gaming the system showed a charming faith in the honesty of a sport that can’t even manage to pass a water bottle out of a car window without turning it into an episode of The Moral Maze.
I am, for instance, pretty sure that if this was the rule there’d be a lot of domestiques crashing in the last kilometre of the last stage of the first week. I can imagine them all landing very gently on the softest bit of verge they could find, and screaming in agony.
It would be unfortunate, because we would at a stroke have lost one of the single best sticks we have for hitting football with; we’d have a diving-to-the-floor-and-faking-serious-injury problem that was even bigger than theirs.