Weird weather … and you’re not going to believe the second part

A reader asks how and why race officials can cut short a stage because of weather ... and we get some unbelievable news.

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Was it really that bad?

Dear Explainer,
I noticed that the fourth stage at the Tour Méditerranéen was cut short by snow. Aside from the fact that the weather is a little more than weird this year – here at home, too – I wonder what rules apply when a race is cut short like that.

From the photos I saw, it didn’t look all that bad. It sure wasn’t anywhere near the now-famous epic day the Italians call “the day the big men cried” when Andy Hampsten won the 1988 Giro. What gives? Who makes that call?
Alan Cook
Washington, D.C.

Dear Alan,
I’ve actually received several very similar letters in recent days, many of which were sent by guys around my age, who usually felt the same why-in-my-day emotions I had when I read about the stage.

Well, I won’t second-guess the call that was made last week at the Tour Méditerranéen, given that I was tucked away in Wyoming (where it was much, much colder, but where we were not hosting a major international road race, either).

I will use your letter as an opportunity, though, to redirect you to a similar question that was posed last year after Denis Menchov’s final-kilometer crash at the Giro d’Italia. Weather is a factor that the UCI commissaires have to consider and they do – despite the disclaimers built into the rules – have a duty to ensure that riders can compete in relatively safe conditions.

But, you gotta admit, Hampsten’s ride will be remembered for a lot more years than will be Julien El Farès’ “victory” on stage four of the Tour Med. Why in my day ….

Strange news from Virginia

Given that this week’s column is quite short, I am going to take the opportunity to update you on a story that we’ve been following for a months.

By now, many of you are probably familiar with the case of Kevin Flock, the 35-year-old Virginia man who was killed on May 31st of last year, while riding his bike on an open country road. After weeks of writing about the overall risks posed by inattentive drivers, I thought I would focus on the life – and tragically premature death – of a single rider, Kevin Flock.

Flock was killed when a van, driven by Virginia National Guard recruiter Aaron Trey Stapleton, struck him from behind at what prosecutors said was at a speed in excess of 65 miles-per-hour. Stapleton was charged with involuntary manslaughter, but a jury in Virginia found him guilty only of “improper driving.” He was fined $500.

Because of the rules barring introduction of prior bad acts, Stapleton’s driving record – which included an earlier reckless driving charge and a driving under the influence conviction – could not be mentioned in court. Okay, fair enough. We are, as they say, a nation of laws and that’s what the law says.

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Kevin Flock and his friend Jo Morrison

Well, five days – yes five days – after avoiding jail time in the Flock case, the good sergeant again found himself dealing with authorities in the state of Virginia. According to court records in Bristol General District Court – the 28th Judicial District of Virginia – Stapleton was arrested on January 16th in connection with a hit-and-run. Fortunately, in this case, the “victim” was merely property.

Stapleton has been charged with four offenses in connection with the incident, including hit-and-run, carrying a concealed weapon, refusal to take a blood or breathalyzer sobriety test and driving while intoxicated. That latter charge carries the potential for enhancement, because it qualifies as a second such offense within a five-year period.

Okay, I could opine at length here … but why bother? I’d be preaching to the choir and I think the record speaks for itself. Let’s just be thankful that no one got hurt this time. Maybe this will be enough to keep him off the road for a while.

Email Charles Pelkey

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