Cycling’s a strange discipline. In what other sport would it be perfectly normal to describe a string of second-places in high profile events as “a problem“. In cycling, while three athletes get to ascend the podium, there’s the winner, and then there’s everybody else.
It’s almost better for everyone if the win is a “no one else in the photo” affair. The victor gets a moment to formulate a fun salute and show off the sponsors, while the rider behind him takes the battle for second, rather than losing the sprint for first.
The reactions for second place are practically scripted. Look away in disgust. Clinch your face in a pained expression. Bang the bars. Flail your arms about one of the swerves or bumps that are as much a part of the final k as the red kite. And under no circumstances look at all pleased with the situation.
Every so often, though, someone’s too excited to remember the rules. Sep Vanmarcke (who’s on Facebook, btw) put in a great ride at Gent-Wevelgem today, hanging tough with a turbocharged group of one-day riders at a pace tough enough to shell an on-form Oscar Freire. The Belgian even threw out an audacious attack 3k to go.
In the final sprint, Vanmarcke caught the wheel of winner Eisel, and held off a hard-charging Philippe Gilbert for second. While it wasn’t exactly a celebration, cameras still caught the Topsport giving a fist-pump of relief as he crossed the line.
I suppose everybody gets to celebrate second once. But I can almost guarantee that Vanmarcke’s next second place will come with a scowl.
thoughts on “Celebrating Second Place”
On of the few exceptions allowed: a young guy getting second in a classic. The other is Jens being all happy because it was a good day to come in second (giro/liege).
At least it’s better than athletes being all happy with a bronze olympic medal. That’s just sad.
Another exception: a 21-y.o. Belgian outsprinting Gilbert. He said after he didn’t think he could outsprint Eisel regardless, so 2nd is his 1st.
Yeah, I think Vanmarcke gets a pass on this one. I was very surprised that he got second after his late attack, which, considering that it gained very little traction, made me think he was pretty spent and just trying to get some late-in-the-game camera time.
And there’s always celebrating 2nd when a team mate has come in 1st. Á la Roger Hammond in the 2007 Gent-Wevelgem.
Yeah, that’s one of the more bizarre customs in the sport. You make the podium, you’re one of the three best cyclists that day, which is a huge accomplishment. But custom says you act pissed that you didn’t win.
I agree with big mikey. I’m in awe of all three podium positions in every pro race I get to watch.
Even more so for Olympic events. Celebrating a bronze medal is sad??? Yeah, I can guess you’ve never repped your country at the Olympics.
And if you watched the last few kilometers, Vanmarcke was actually cramping. You can see him hit his left leg to get some of the fatigue out as he was getting caught after his attack with 3km to go. It takes guts to sprint with cramps, since its disabling afterwards.
@Tom. Did you? I don’t think that has to do with anything.
I (would) never celebrate 3rd place, just as i wouldn’t celebrate any other losing place. But that’s probably because I never repped my country at the Olympics. Only those people deserve an opinion.
No, I haven’t. But I do think it has something to do with it.
Are you serious? Not celebrate 3rd at the Olympic level, c’mon. I’d celebrate (& do) like crazy getting 3rd at the local races as long as its a good close race that is. Dont think anyone likes being dropped in the last km by some guy and just not having the legs (Mr Boonen).
3rd place at the worlds/Olympics etc would be a great result, 1st or 2nd of course would be better but hopefully you had just been beaten by the better rider(s) on the day, take your medicine and be happy with what you got. Or be pissed off about and cry in your cheerios. as the young’ns would say “whatever”.
I can only guess as to why some riders dont celebrate their minor placings; possibly due to making a poor tactical decision, too many donuts in the off season, anyone beaten by Ricco, getting a wheel change by Valverdes brother-in-law when you are in contention for the Vuelta. perhaps these are bone fide reasons not to celebrate your minor placing? I suspect there are others, so i get, at least to some extent, why zaff wouldn’t celebrate any place other than first.
Anyone that *would never* celebrate 3rd place though should go into the room of mirrors and take a long hard look at themselves, build a bridge and get over it.
The problem with celebrating spots other than the top step of the podium isn’t that they are not great results, but more about a) generally only the winner is remembered and catches the long term publicity & benefit. b) riders are paid to win (see a). c) it is hard to celebrate when you are bitterly disappointed at having come so close, but not close enough.
The exceptions are events that have notable medals (worlds & the Olympics), but silver and bronze can be bitter to swallow and in instances where riders rise above their expectations, and take it to the next level- Vanmarcke in G-W and Johnny Bellis in the 2007 U23 Worlds: https://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/imageBank/b/Bellis%20line.jpg
I’m with DrDon, in a field of professional athletes, 2nd, 3rd 4th, hell 11th are to be celebrated. I guess we don’t know the dynamics back in the team bus but I’d be happy just hold the pace of the peleton!
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