The temperature wasn't the only thing on the rise during stage 4 at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah on Thursday, as disagreements in the breakaway about who was working and who was sitting on led to arguments and a crash for Israel Cycling Academy's Daniel Turek.
Turek infiltrated a six-rider break that escaped after 90 difficult minutes of racing in temperatures that reached 36 degrees Celsius. The group eventually built a gap of five minutes on the peloton. But when Turek's director ordered him to sit on the move, his breakaway companions took exception.
In the break with Turek were Gonzalo Serrano (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Lorenzo Rota (Bardiani CSF), Marco Zamparella (Amore & Vita), Taylor Sheldon (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) and Brian McCulloch (Elevate-KHS).
Turek could be seen in the group informing his fellow breakaway companions that he had been ordered not to work, but the news didn't go over too well.
Rota immediately attacked the group when the gap started coming down, but the others were able to bring him back. He jumped again with Serrano, and the two riders opened a gap that would leave the rest behind.
As Turek chased with Zamparella, Sheldon and McCulloch, his front tire made contact with Zamparella's back tire, and the Cycling Academy rider went down hard.
In the finishing straight, he told Cyclingnews he wasn't certain if Zamparella had brake-checked him on purpose, but he did say it wasn't very nice.
"We worked quite well and everything was OK," Turek said. "Then my director told me that our sprinter feels good, so I have to stop working. The guys in the break were not really happy.
"After the guy from Caja Rural and Bardiani went, we started attacking with maybe 50k to go. The guy from Amore & Vita, he just smashed me to the ground. It was not nice from him."
Asked again if the move was intentional, Turek indicated he wasn't sure.
"I feel that he was, but I don't know," he said. "It's bad, but also at one point I understand he was angry at me, but it wasn't my fault. It wasn't my fault, but it was not nice. I tried to be a good guy, just don't make some problems, but they started making problems. That's fighting tactics. Sometimes it happens."
Zamparella had already left team parking for the hotel by the time Cyclingnews got to the Amore & Vita bus after the stage, but team director Francesco Frassi said there was no intention on the part of his rider to crash Turek.
"The front wheel of Cycling Academy rider contacted the back wheel of Zamparella, but it was not intentional," Frassi said.
McCulloch disagreed, telling Cyclingnews he had a birds-eye view of the crash, and it looked intentional from his perspective.
"There was nothing on the road that would have indicated that, and I saw it being behind," McCulloch said. "So that was very disappointing, but at the end of the day I just hope he's OK, because he rode hard today and nobody deserves to be spending the day on the day on the deck. Everybody works too hard for that."
Cycling Academy lodged a complaint after the stage, but the UCI jury decided not to hand out any penalties after reviewing video of the incident.
"The commissaire that was on duty there and was right there, he didn't actually directly see anything," UCI Jury President Wayne Pomario told Cyclingnews. "I mean he saw the crash, but he didn't see anything that would have been actionable.
"Once [Cycling Academy] came and spoke to us, we went back and we've looked at all the video footage that exists, and even seeing the video footage we haven't seen anything that would lead us to take a decision against any rider," Pomario said. "So right now there's no decision beyond it's a race incident. As I say, we just haven't found any footage, and what we saw lacked visually to make any further decision."
McCulloch said getting upset with a rider who's been ordered to sit on in a breakaway is not reasonable.
"I wouldn't get upset with him. He's a very good guy," McCulloch said. "I talked with him once the Caja and Bardiani guy were up the road, and I was like, 'Hey bro, just roll through with us and let's get it back together. It's fine.'
"He went and talked to his director and there's no reason to get upset. It's just bike racing. That's what we're supposed to do," McCulloch said. "My director would have said the same thing, and I would hope that he'd give me the same respect. It was just unfortunate that there was some funny business among the Italians and him. I hope he's OK."
The "funny business" on stage 4 actually started earlier in the day, when Axeon Hagens Berman's Chris Lawless – the points leader at the start of the day – was relegated after taking the first intermediate sprint. It was Cycling Academy's Mihkel Räim who was on the receiving end of the act this time.
The UCI jury ruled that Lawless had deviated from his line and obstructed Räim, who said it really was no big deal.
"It was nothing special, just cycling happened," said Räim, who finished third in the bunch kick at the end of the stage.
"We were going for a sprint and he probably didn't see me and also he wanted to gamble a little bit, which is normal in cycling, but it was just a little too much I think," Räim said. "I couldn't pass him on the right side and he pushed me a little bit, and, yeah, I just couldn't finish my sprint. It was a bit annoying, but nothing so special. Those things happen and he came to me and apologised after, so it's nothing special."
At the end of the day, Räim's third-place finish in the final bunch kick and points in the first sprint lifted him past Lawless in the points competition.
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