SANDY, Utah (VN) — Arms went flying in frustration as a six-man breakaway hesitated in the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah’s hot and dry stage 4. Riding together with ease for nearly 80 kilometers, the group had five minutes on the peloton and looked poised to hold the lead to the finish. Then, Daniel Turek of the Israel Cycling Academy started skipping pulls.
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“At 60-70 kilometers to go, my team director told me that our sprinter was feeling really good so I needed to stop working with [the break],” Turek said. “So I tried to explain to them that I couldn’t work with them anymore. Some of them were OK with that, and some of them were not happy.”
Frustration radiated from the group. Hands were thrown up in anger, there were choice words between riders, and the break slowed dramatically. “Things started to get really salty,” Brian Mcculloch of Elevate-KHS said. “We were trying to keep it together. [Taylor Sheldon] and I were trying to keep it rolling, but the Italians seemed to be a little jumpy.” That caused some sketchiness in the group according to Mcculloch.
Drama isn’t unusual in breakaways. Riders enter escapes with different expectations and responsibilities for their teams. When these goals and expectations do not align, tempers can flare. While some attacks or an angry exchange is expected, intentionally crashing a rider is not.
But that is what Turek claims happened to him after he was directed to stop working with the group.
After the break slowed and attempted to force Turek back into the rotation, the frustrated riders started attacking each other. Lorenzo Rota (Bardiani-CSF) and Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Caja Rural) sprinted ahead of the others, creating a gap that would last until the duo was eventually swallowed up by the peloton at 10km to go.
The remaining four riders continued attacking until only Marco Zamparella (Amore & Vita) and Turek were left to battle. That’s when Turek suddenly hit the pavement while riding down a wide, featureless road. “I was just staying on the left side of the road so [Zamparella] could only attack from the right,” Turek recalls. “He went from the left and just …” (Turek mimics a rider running into him). “I know he was angry at me, I understand that, but it was not my fault.”
Skidding to a stop on the hot pavement, Turek wobbled to his feet, road rash covering his left side. The Czech got back on his bike, rejoined the peloton, and finished the stage. But he was visibly in pain and angry.
At the finish, Mcculloch checked in on Turek, asking if he was OK after the crash. Mcculloch said he saw the incident. “From my perspective, it certainly looked intentional,” he said. Quick to add a disclaimer, Mcculloch said, “I was 50 meters away and certainly in the box. But it didn’t look necessary.”
After the finish, Zamparella swept through the field of riders and went straight into his team RV, which then exited the venue in a hurry. The Amore & Vita sport director remained at the venue and adamantly said that the crash was Turek’s fault. He said that it was, in fact, Turek who made contact with Zamparella and that his rider simply reacted to the situation.
So far, there is no word on whether Zamparella will be punished for the incident. Without concrete evidence, it’s likely nothing will come of the situation.
“I’m just waiting for an apology,” Turek said. Although he might not get that, Turek should feel vindicated, since his sprinter, Mihkel Raim managed a third-place finish in stage 4.