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Garbage Takes: Is the TDF Sagan saga over?

The Garbage Takes opinion column has been on hiatus during the off-season. However, when news came down that the UCI and Peter Sagan had settled the Tour de France DSQ case, we couldn’t resist. As always, these takes are purely commentary and for entertainment purposes only!

The UCI and Peter Sagan have settled a lawsuit that goes back to a sunny day this past July in Vittel, France. Sagan was kicked out of the Tour de France for allegedly elbowing Mark Cavendish into the barriers. Cavendish abandoned the race with a broken collarbone. Who was to blame? As we learned this week, apparently nobody. The UCI labeled the entire ordeal an “unintentional race incident,” ending months of Gif analysis by armchair videotape analysts (his elbow DID NOT MOVE ON ITS OWN!)

At last, cycling’s governing body has reached the same conclusion as millions of Twitter users — except it only took the fans about one day to figure it out.

The settlement must be chilly comfort for Sagan and his throngs of fans. If the NFL wrongfully kicked Tom Brady out of the Super Bowl and then apologized in August, would the Boston faithful be satisfied? Not bloody likely. Still, the UCI closed the book on the matter. But did they? I still have three outstanding questions.

How much are 18 Tour stages worth?

Does the UCI plan to reimburse Sagan or his team for it’s big SNAFU? Sagan was kicked out on stage 4, and thus missed plenty of publicity and marketing that comes from all of those victories and podiums. After all, that Tour route was perfect for him. We even predicted he might have won 11 stages! So how does one quantify all of those lost marketing impressions in real dollars? I know that everyone in pro cycling is an armchair marketing executive these days, with lots to say about social campaigns and the CPM value of Instagram pictures. I tell you, I’ve looked at a few handy websites dedicated to all of this marketing BS, and my brain has melted from too much talk about Ad Value Equivalence (AVE) and CPM value. My guesstimate is that Sagan and his team lost out on a billion kajillion dollars worth of advertising. So, my solution is to have the UCI simply post Peter Sagan photos on its Instagram feed 20 times a day for the rest of the decade. And yes, I’ll just take everyone’s word that cycling is the best advertising value in pro sports — so long as the governing body doesn’t accidentally boot out your star rider.

Can the Tour implement ‘coach’s challenge?’

Here’s a tidbit from Bora-Hansgrohe’s statement on the settlement: UCI president David Lappartient says, “The UCI intends to engage a ‘support commissaire’ to assist the Commissaires Panel with special video expertise on the main events of the UCI World Tour.” Video expertise? That sounds to me like cycling is creeping closer to instant replay. This could be a step in a strange direction. Will cycling also impose a coach’s challenge system like we see in the NFL? I sincerely hope so. I’d love to see team directors and riders chucking red challenge flags during the middle of a race. Do riders have to do a penalty lap if they don’t overturn the ruling on the “field?” Or, maybe we should just leave this up to the directors in the team cars. If we aren’t careful, the riders could start chucking these red flags into each other’s spokes like the Italians did with a frame pump to David in “Breaking Away.”

Can Cavendish and Sagan hug it out?

After the UCI and Bora-Hansgrohe issued their press releases, Mark Cavendish’s Dimension Data team issued a statement saying it was “surprised” to be excluded from the hearing. The team felt it should have been part of the investigation that analyzed the race footage, since Cavendish got a front-row seat (or course fence) to the carnage. In all honesty, Dimension Data has a point. Still, I see this complaint as a big publicity opportunity for the UCI. The organization could hold a live televised judgement for all of the kerfuffles that occurred during the season. Hold it during the off-season. Give the fans a show! I’m envisioning a cycling-themed court show, similar to “Judge Judy” or “The People’s Court.” The UCI could hire a charismatic arbiter (Tom Boonen? Jens Voigt?) to oversee the plaintiff and defendant. The arbiter could take a studio audience through the entire proceedings and then, bam! Make the judgement. If that won’t get fans fired up for the 2018 cycling season, I am fresh out of good ideas.

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