It really isn’t the kind of thing you expect to see in a cycle race and as far as sporting behaviour goes, it’s up there with running onto a football pitch and sinking one into the back of the net when you’re not even playing.
In fact that’s exactly what it’s like. In what can only be described as an unheralded moment of lunacy, Michael Ashurst gatecrashed a race he hadn’t entered and then made sure no one could get to his Champion Systems VCUK teammates in the breakaway by blocking them from attacking.
He might have got a four-month ban for his efforts but let’s face it, this is the bloke you want as your wingman on a night out. I’d actually like to buy him a pint. Never met him, but anyone who is prepared to exhibit such a blatant disregard for the rules has got to be OK.
As an added bonus, Ashurst also forced British Cycling to actually do something to earn their subscription fees and initiate a disciplinary. We’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that one. “So Mr Ashurst, what the very hell did you actually think you were playing at? We’ve a good mind to unleash Shane Sutton on you!”
“Oh I don’t think there’s any need to go to those extremes, Gerard. A ban and a £100 fine should do the trick.”
In its strongly-worded judgement, BC states Ashurst “undertook some racing moves,” after lap six. Fantastic wording. That’s one for his scrapbook. “He undertook some racing moves.”
It doesn’t end there. As well as chasing down riders, he also refused to leave the race when asked to by actual competitors. That’s the thing with cycling racing, it’s not as if a marshall can rugby tackle you and drag you off the course, because you’re probably topping 25mph and if you go down, so does the entire race. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?
Ashurst then dragged his disruption out for a full eight laps. It’s anyone’s guess what happened then. Presumably the race finished, or maybe he got bored and decided to go rampaging down the local high street while he was on a roll.
Ashurst, who incidentally is a first cat rider and managed to win three races between the incident and his hearing, including a national B event, could well have set a new precedent.
In a sport where the worst behaviour tends to revolve around doping or, as we have learned from Geraint Thomas’s book The World of Cycling According to G, smearing bananas on walls, it’s refreshing that Ashurst used a bit of imagination in his unruly behaviour.
This is the kind of initiative we need in professional cycling. He should have won a prize for sheer front.
Someone sign him up quick!