Tour of San Luis. No tranquillo, loco.

Punching above their weight.

Punching above their weight.

Tour de San Luis or Tour Down Under?

The irony was that several of the top stars opted for Argentina instead of the first WorldTour event of the season, Australia’s Tour Down Under. Maybe now they’re second-guessing that plane ticket.

The reasoning went that San Luis was less stressful and pressure-filled. San Luis was the smart way to ease into the year, better training for lonerg-term goals. It was further away from the media spotlight and besides they had awesome beef empanadas.

In short, the Tour of San Luis was tranquillo.

That supposition turned out to be wildly inaccurate.

Low on stress? Ask Garmin-Sharp’s Tyler Farrar how close he came to being killed by a team car driven by Hugo Perez of the third division Buenos Aires Provincia squad. According to Garmin and several other eye witnesses, Perez didn’t even bother to stop, leaving Farrar laying in the road with multiple injuries.

Farrar, who has become one of the hard luck riders of the pro peloton, had put together a great Winter of training and in recent weeks was more optimistic than ever that he could win more races this year.

A few days in Argentina put an end to that happy talk. Farrar can at least count himself lucky that he didn’t end up dead, crushed under the wheels of a car. Somewhere up in Heaven his friend Wouter Weylandt is shaking his head and wondering why Perez wasn’t thrown out of the race immediately. Race officials hit him with a whopping fine of just 100 Swiss francs — that’s about $112 US dollars for almost killing Farrar. Life is cheap.

Just a guess — look for Farrar to start his season in Australia next year.

Tranquillo?

Ask Lucas Euser, a top climber for the Pro Continental United Healthcare squad. He had a shot a several stage podiums but instead lost out to South American guys like Enzo Moyano who received pushes from fans, media motos and team cars. That was apparently done in front of the local race commissars who turned a blind eye and showed no interest in setting a standard for fair play.

San Luis is so chill, right?

Hmm, talk to BMC’s Taylor Phinney who decided to play it safer, watching from a secure place in the peloton as local riders took insane risks just to sprint for seventh place. Phinney is a big, tough guy but he’s not going to risk his season goals to bag a top ten in San Luis, battling a bunch of homicidal South American riders.

You know things are just too dangerous when an aggressive rider with superb bike handling skills like Peter Sagan essentially sits out the sprints except for the final stage. He might be willing to take a few risks but not he’s not crazy.

Again, really, you sure about that? Tranquillo?

Maybe next year Tour de France contender Vincenzo Nibali will avoid the pile-ups on the roads of Argentina in favor of the Tour Down Under. The Italian went down hard in a crash of 20 to 25 riders. The fear was that be broke ribs but got off luckier than that. Still, he’ll be happy to put this San Luis adventure behind him as soon as possible.

Accidents happen at every race but BMC Racing sports director Jackson Stewart seemed to sum up the collective assessment in San Luis. “Everywhere is different but this is just chaotic,” said Stewart.

Ohh, and take a look at Kenny Dehaes’ face. He got that black eye from Walter Perez of the now notorious Buenos Aires team. Perez decided an elbow wasn’t enough to take Dehaes’ position in the bunch so he drilled him in the face. Dad, the guy who delivered the hit and run near-homicide on Farrar, must be proud.

In Neal Rogers’ story for Velonews, he writes that a number of American riders were calling the tactics of the local South American teams “bush league.” As in BushLeagueTour, not WorldTour.

By most accounts, riders have enjoyed the Tour of San Luis in past years and it’s now successful enough to steal plenty of star riders from the Tour Down Under.

However, this would seem to be an obvious case of the organizers doing a poor job — or none at all — of enforcing rules regarding sportsmanship and safety.

The 2014 Tour of San Luis was anything but tranquillo.

 

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