Commentary: Etiquette lessons with pushy Boeckmans

Etiquette in cycling races is mysterious and confusing. What can we learn from the latest incident between Kris Boeckmans and Justin Jules?

Call the etiquette police!

Cycling’s unwritten rules took centerstage when a very bizarre scene played out during Wednesday’s Danilith Nokere-Koerse. Yes, I’m talking about Lotto-Soudal rider Kris Boeckmans’s decision to push Justin Jules from the front of the peloton all the way to the rear like a mad dad scolding a bratty teen. Following in the footsteps of “motogate” and “jiffy bag-gate,” we now have “pushgate!”

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Here’s another angle:

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What prompted Boeckmans to give Jules a LaDanian Tomlinson-esque stiff-arm? After the race, Boeckmans told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad that he was working for his teammate, Jasper De Buyst, when he saw that Jules was tugging on his saddle and cursing at him in French. He then took matters into his own hands.

In the interview, Boeckmans also made reference to Jules’s checkered past. The son of Tour de France stage winner Pascal Jules, Justin Jules spent three years in prison for murdering his alcoholic stepfather when he was 18. “They told me: Beware, this is not ordinary, because he has been in prison for three years. Well, that should not be a reason. Why should that boy be allowed to get away with things?” Boeckmans told the newspaper.

As we all know, cycling has many unwritten rules of etiquette. Don’t attack the yellow jersey when he stops to take a leak. Don’t attack through the feed zone. Don’t throw your team boss under the bus when he’s dragged in front of parliament. You know, basic stuff.

There are so many etiquette violations going on within Pushgate. The burning question I have is this: Who violated the most etiquette rules in this scenario?

Let’s say that Boeckmans’s story is true, and Justin Jules is indeed a teeny tiny criminal who zips around the field grabbing saddles and berating people with French curse words. These etiquette violations only add to the much larger faux pas, that Jules’s WB Veranclassic Pro Continental team drove the pace shortly after a crash. Let us count up Jules’s etiquette violations, and rate them from 1-10:

Grabbing onto a saddle: 9/10
Driving the pace after a crash: 6/10
Cursing a WorldTour guy in French when you are a puny Pro Conti rider: 5/10

Of course Boeckmans isn’t totally innocent in this situation either. Here’s the tally of his etiquette violations:

Pushing another rider for more than 10 seconds: 10/10
Casually mentioning a rider’s checkered past to a reporter: 10/10

Looks like we have a tie. There are many etiquette lessons to be learned here, and I suppose the overarching message is this: Don’t be a jerk. At some point, every pro cyclist violates one of these rules of etiquette. To better understand etiquette, here are a few funny anecdotes from other pros:

Rider: Larry Warbasse
Unspoken rule: Don’t shoot through dangerous gaps
“During my first Vuelta in 2014, while riding for BMC, there was one day where it took ages for the breakaway to go, and at one moment, I was pretty sure it was going. Saxo/Tinkoff was pretty sure it was going to, so they were moving across the road to block it, but before they could fully close it, I jumped on the left hand side. Daniele Bennati was moving left, and I just got through before he closed the road, but it was close. I was sprinting to bridge the gap, but I could hear a yell from behind me, and a second later saw a bottle come whizzing past my head. He wasn’t happy and safe to say I didn’t make it across.

“Then last year in the Tour of Poland we were on a tight, windy road, and the pace was high, it had been a hard day. A climb was coming up and I wanted to move into better position. I tried to squeeze through a gap on the left hand side of the road, but the road bent, and I cut off none other than Daniele Bennati, again. But the funniest part was what he yelled ‘YOU! AGAIN! You did the same two years ago!!!!’ I couldn’t help but laugh at how good a memory he had, because surely I also hadn’t forgotten.”

Rider: Phil Gaimon
Unspoken Rule: Don’t attack when the race leader goes pee pee 
“I was on Jelly Belly at the Tour of California, and all we were supposed to do every day was get into the break. It’s a super hard race. Cancellara is there, Levi is in the lead. Our only hope was to make the early pointless breakaway, and every day we’d miss the break. We can’t even get into it. Finally, one day the break goes, and Levi is about to pull over to go pee. I go to the front and am like, ‘Yo Levi! Can I please try to jump across? I’m gonna get yelled at if I don’t!’ Levi says yeah, sure, I don’t care. He pulls over and I attack. It looks like I just attacked the yellow jersey. So it’s Tommy [Danielson] who chases me down and cusses me out about the whole thing. I think I told him to shove it.”

Rider: Rob Britton
Unspoken Rule: Be courteous 
“It was the final stage of the Tour de Beauce two years ago, this brutally hard circuit, and I got away and was joined by the guy in 2nd on GC and a younger Canadian rider. The GC guy just told me to work with him, and the Canadian guy just sat on. He could have pulled but he didn’t. He won the sprint. I yelled at him during the move and right after. I then realized it was the biggest win of his career, and he was just doing his job. I apologized right afterwards. I had been the total asshole.”

Rider: Gaimon again
Unspoken Rule: Let a GC contender have the wheel 
“It’s Redlands 2015 and I’m sitting in 4th overall. I have my whole team on the front and we’re headed to Oak Glen. I want to sit on the wheel of Chris Horner, so I slot in, and there is some guy on some amateur team who doesn’t want to give up the wheel. I said ‘Hey man, excuse me,’ and he didn’t budge. Anyway, I shoved him out off the wheel. I won the stage and took GC and totally forgot about him. He went to my team director and tattled on me for being mean!”