Earlier this week, Colombian sprinting wizard Fernando Gaviria won the opening stage of this year’s Tour of San Juan thanks to a strong leadout from Tom Boonen, and also thanks to a good chunk of the peloton getting confused and going the wrong way at an intersection.
Gaviria is hardly the first cyclist to benefit from such a diversion. As it turns out, riding your bike on the roads you’re supposed to is harder than it seems and the history of the sport is replete with dudes going the wrong way. Chris Horner once told me about his first time racing the Philadelphia Classic, when he made a wrong turn while leading the race and simply decided to ride back to his hotel instead of trying to rejoin the race. Here are just a few notable examples of bike boys getting lost.
The 1950 Tour de France is best remembered for Gino Bartali and Jean Robic’s crash that sparked some decently high tensions between France and Italy over a dumb crash and a fan either threatening Bartali with a knife or cutting salami with said knife, as well as the debut of the first African team at the race. “North Africa” was composed of Algerian and Moroccan riders, though neither country was independent at the time. The team took a pair of stage wins, but those have since been overshadowed by the travails of Abdel-Kader Zaaf, who suffered heatstroke on Stage 13.
Legend has it that Zaaf was either too hopped up on amphetamines or had accidentally ingested alcohol for the first time, but either way, Zaaf passed out heading into Nîmes, and when he came to, he rode away in the wrong direction before getting stopped and taken into town in an ambulance.
It’s Stage 14 of the 1988 Tour de France. Scottish climber Robert Millar is leading a three-man group including Frechman Phillipe Bouvatier and Italian Massimo Ghirotto up the final climb of the day. As the trio headed up the slopes of Guzet-Neige, Millar and Bouvatier attacked, leaving Ghirotto behind. Problem is, they followed race motorbikes instead of paying attention to a policeman directions, handing Ghirotto an uncontested win.
Danish rider Lasse-Norman Hansen was in the process of a solo escape at Stage 5 of the 2015 Tour of Alberta, but the peloton and Katusha’s Sven Erik Bystrom were giving chase. Inside of the last 10 kilometers, Bystrom ignored a frantically waving course official and took a wrong turn, leading the entire peloton behind him.
Bystrom completely wrecked any chance the peloton had of catching Hansen, who later said that he only rode away because he was cold and wanted to warm himself up, and second place even went to a rider who had previously been dropped, but managed to avoid the misdirection.
There have been plenty more instances of cycling guys going the wrong way, many of them minor (like Serghei Tvetcov inexplicably heading into the forest instead of staying on the road at the 2015 Giro d’Italia), and all of them funny. There will almost certainly be more this season and I hope no riders end up like Joaquim Rodriguez.