Blazin' Saddles

Yeah but no butt

Blazin' Saddles

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Zinedine Zidane was given a red card for his infamous head-butt so what makes Mark Renshaw think he merits any different?

Ramming rivals with your head before consciously trying to run a fellow rider off the road is all "part and parcel of sprinting" according to Renshaw, who obviously follows the Mario Kart code of racing.

Saddles was intrigued to listen to the reaction of Mark Cavendish's lead-out man just moments after the bruising finale to Thursday's stage 11 - so intrigued that he here dissects his points one by one.

"Very tough final there, the Garmin rider came across on me."

He's got a name Mark - he's called Julian Dean and you know him very well because you looked him in the eye before brutally attacking him with your head. Oh, and he didn't come across on you at all, he was keeping pretty straight.

"I didn't know what else I was going to do. I definitely couldn't brake. He tried to come to the left. What was I going to do?" Erm, keep your line and try and drop him fairly?

"We've had to change our tactics because we lost the horse power of Adam Hansen." Ah, that explains the switch to ultimate-fighter-on-wheels mode.

"I wouldn't consider it rough house - just a little bit of shoulder barging with the head." Yup, otherwise known as head-butting.

"At the end of the day if I didn't use my head I'd probably crash." Yes, but if you did use your head earlier in the day you might still be around to contest another sprint.

And the ironic thing is that hardly any of the post-race debate centred on what was really so reprehensible about Renshaw - not the head-butts, but his sudden - and wholly intentional - veering to the left to attempt to force Farrar into the barriers.

If you look at the helicopter shot from above you see, quite clearly, Renshaw look over his shoulders towards the on-coming Garmin 20-20 vision speed ace before cold-bloodedly and entirely premeditatedly cutting into his path to make Farrar - as Rolf Aldag so innocently phrased - "pay the bill".

Almost pay the bill for facial reconstruction and multiple fracture surgery, more like.

Aldag's post-race interview - before news of Renshaw's elimination - was almost as shocking as his rider's behaviour.

The HTC-Columbia team manager claimed: "Renshaw hit Dean with the head a few times to just make sure to say 'there's no way you kill me on this fence'." What, before trying to kill his team-mate in that same fence?

The German then trawled out the old "sprinting is not a kindergarten" phrase without considering how sprinting would be if, say, the kindergarten in question was the one looked after by Arnie in the 90s police-meets-pre-primary-school-kids thriller Kindergarten Cop. Talk about an oversight.

Aldag's particularly bad brand of stand-up comedy continued with his claim that sprinting "should stay fair so that there aren't any big crashes - and there weren't any, so at the end of the day the guys realised enough was enough."

Which is like saying that that crazed bomber in New York's Times Square a few months ago was an alright bloke because no one actually died. Yes, there weren't any crashes in Bourg-les-Valence - but that was in spite of Renshaw's tactics. In fact it was, as far as Saddles can see, despite his best intentions.

Sprint finishes may not be as exciting without Renshaw pulling the strings - but it will be interesting to see Cavendish attempt to win on the Champs Elysées without the string-master pushing the envelope.

Anyway, the Tour officials will probably have a change of heart and reinstate Renshaw on Friday morning so this could all be immaterial.

Quote of the day #1: "Julian Dean knows he wasn't in the right because he didn't complain." Rolf 'Rolling on the Floor Laughing' Aldag says his piece.

Quote of the day #2: "It's very inappropriate behaviour and very dangerous behaviour." Julian Dean, er, complains.

Quote of the day #3: "Watching it in replay, I think Renshaw should be thrown off the race. This is the worst I've seen this year." Fair play, Tyler Farrar is certainly correct - but saying what he thinks does make him seem a bit like a Spanish footballer brandishing an imaginary red card in a ploy to get the referee to send an opponent off.

Quote of the day #4: "Renshaw is out. We watched the film once and it was blatant. This is cycling, not fighting. Everybody could have ended up on their backs." Jean-Francois Pescheux takes action.

Quote of the day #5: "As per usual things don't always go our way. I think it's an unfair decision." As usual, Cav has something to grumble about.

Word of the day: Rensurance - insurance policy taken out at the end of certain stages of your life when you feel like someone is sticking their head into your business and driving you wide of the mark.

Stage 12 prediction: Stage 12 starts in Bourg de Peage, the medieval toll bridge town renowned for its felt hat industry. As such, the rider whose name sounds most like "chapeau" - Anthony Charteau - will no doubt instigate an early break to pick up enough mountain points to see him back into the polka dot jersey.

En route to the finish in Mende - renowned for it's cathedral, big bell and hot baths - the riders pass through the Ardeche, the only French department without a train station. Seeing that HTC-Columbia no longer have a train, someone like Tony Martin may feel inspired.

Plat du jour: Some local herby sausages with aligot (mashed potatoes with cheese) and some Puy lentils, dubbed the poor man's caviar. As a digestif, try a glass of Verveine, the famous green liqueur from the area.

Peleton prattle: Which former British prologue guru was in the same class as Daniel 'James Bond' Craig at school and always warned him about acting being a bit of an odd job.

Uses for Rolf Aldag #1: Political spin doctor.

Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the Tour on www.twitter.com/saddleblaze.

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