Rahsaan Bahati (Bahati Foundation) claimed Monday that UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis sprinter Jake Keough intentionally crashed him in the closing laps at the Dana Point Grand Prix criterium Sunday.
UHC director Gord Fraser Sunday pointed to dangerous, disrespectful riding on the part of Bahati as the cause for the crash, which took half of the field out of contention with three laps remaining. Reaction was mixed from other riders near the front when the crash occurred, including Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis-Sutter Home), Ken Hanson (Team Type 1) and Kyle Wamsley (Bissell).
Bahati talks about the incident
Bahati planned to funnel the emotion he battled after teammate Jorge Alvarado’s death last week into a win at Dana Point Sunday. That plan derailed when Bahati mixed with the UnitedHealthcare sprint train and crashed out late in the race.
The crash led to a bizarre turn of events in which Bahati, standing at the edge of the race course, threw his sunglasses into UHC rider Andrew Pinfold’s front wheel from the middle of the road on the penultimate lap. The glasses ripped Pinfold’s computer sensor off of his fork and when the errant sensor entered his front wheel, it took away his team’s chances at the win.
Bahati told VeloNews that Keough deliberately crashed him after the final corner on the fourth-to-last lap.
“Going into the turn 6, Jake Keough saw me underneath him and he did a couple chops, OK, no problem, to protect the inside,” said Bahati. “He came underneath and out of the straightaway he saw me on his hip, looked at me, turned right, right, right until I went down. It was so blatant. That’s why I was so upset.”
Bahati acknowledged that the sprinters’ game is full of hard knocks, but contended that crashes are only acceptable when they occur naturally within the race.
“We race to win,” he said. “We race to compete. We’re friends off the bike. We’re enemies on the bike, but you keep it within the context of the race. That went well overboard.”
Bahati’s emotions took the upperhand and after exchanging words with UHC director Gord Fraser in the pit, he went to the start/finish, where the sunglasses incident occurred.
“My brain was racing through so many things,” he said. “One, I crashed. Two, I was supposed to win this race for Jorge. Three, I don’t mind crashing, but it’s got to be done within the context of the sport and not deliberately crashing someone.”
Bahati said he threw his glasses at Keough, but they hit leadout man Pinfold, instead.
“When the pack came back around, I made a huge mistake by throwing my glasses at Jake Keough,” said Bahati. “If I could take that back, I would. However, I was so caught up in the moment, was so frustrated and with so many emotions, I overreacted.”
Bahati was contrite in his apology to Pinfold, the race organizers, fans and supporters of the Bahati Foundation, but also demanded that punishment for the incident be handed down fairly by USA Cycling.
“Something has to be done about it,” said Bahati. “I know [Fraser] filed a complaint against me and said I needed to be handed some type of suspension and if that’s fair, that’s fair. But also, something needs to happen on his side and with his riders. Him for teaching and preaching it and condoning it, and his rider for actually executing it. It needs to be fair across the board.”
Fraser and Bahati exchanged text messages Sunday evening about the incident; however, Bahati was hesitant to discuss the incident with the UHC director at this point.
“Gord Fraser and I actually exchanged a few text messages last night and want to sit down and talk over the phone, but right now I don’t have anything to say,” said Bahati. “I have this feeling inside of me that if he can teach his rider to do something like that and praise it, it’s unheard of. I’ve never been in a situation like this and something has to be done about it.”
Reaction from the sprinters
Team Type 1′s Hanson was near the front during the final laps. “There was just a lot of contact,” he said. “You know, guys leaning on each other, head butting each other, that started with about 10 laps to go. It was excessive,” said Hanson. “They almost spent more time focusing on each other than racing their bikes.”
“From my perspective, there was a lot of instigation,” said Hanson. “In bike racing etiquette, when one guy’s team is controlling the front, they’re working to lead their sprinter out and you have to give them the back of that train. What I saw was Bahati and other people putting more contact onto Keough and that was completely unnecessary. They have to respect the fact that his team is controlling the front.”
Bissell’s Wamsley was frustrated by the impact of the UHC/Bahati feud on the remainder of the field. “For whatever reason, United and Bahati were taking swings at each other for no good reason. They were swinging like they were going to get swarmed, but everyone was lining up behind Rahsaan,” said Wamsley. “It’s very frustrating for the rest of us, even the guys that didn’t go down, because they torched the end of the race for the whole field. It was a lot of aggression that should have been focused on the finish line instead of each other.”
Jamis-Sutter Home’s Borrajo was more direct in his opinion following the race. “Bahati today was so crazy,” said Borrajo. “It was wrong, he was so wrong, because he was fighting the United guy in the train. I don’t know why he was fighting for the train’s wheel. He was bad. He was wrong and he made the crash.”