Setting - a major bike championship at the end of a 'series' with lots of prize money and status.
Two riders in a breakaway, one of whom is a great rider who didn't compete in the series but decided to enter the championship when organizers opened it up to all comers in an attempt to 'fill' the race (after all, it's a business, right?). Right away he's not exactly popular among some of the other riders a few of whom voice opinions that he shouldn't be allowed to race nationals without racing the series.
The course contains a section that is very narrow, only allowing riders through single file, with lots of twists on cobblestones. We'll call it 'the gauntlet'. The lead two make it through ahead of the pack and so don't have to slow down. Some of the other 'favorites' have had various issues (lets say mechanical ones) during the race and are unable to get to the front of the field before these technical sections and so are majorly slowed down. they lose further time and virtually any hope (if they'd had any at all) of catching the two leaders. They're able to pull away and finish ahead of the rest of the pack, but still significantly behind the first two riders, who both had nearly flawless races.
Prior to getting to the 'clusterfuck' as the top racers caught in the bottle-neck call it, there was a section of the course where the map/directions were somewhat vague - "you must complete three laps around the 'mountain loop' and traverse 'the gauntlet' before proceeding along the race course. Confused, the two riders in the breakaway came up next to one of the race organization's cars and asked for clarification - "do we have to do the gauntlet first and then the mountain loops, or can we do it the other way around?" The answer was that they could ride these sections in any order. The route they chose navigated the gauntlet first and then the mountain loops, and then made it's way back to the main race course. This route was slightly longer (due to construction) than the route taking in the mountain loops first and then the gauntlet.
The top riders that were caught in the bottleneck were justifiably upset - while they might not have won the race without the delays, the delay's pretty much left them fighting for the third spot on the podium. The delays, keep in mind, were caused by the race course design, and bad luck (mechanical issues) for the top racers not involved in the breakaway.
Upon finding out that the breakaway riders had gone through the gauntlet first, the top riders, assuming some overall advantage had been conferred to them, protested. Other riders who were not in contention for the podium positions had also chosen this route, but had no protests leveled against them, as is expected. In light of the protests by these 'top riders' who had had a high presence in the series itself, the race management decided to level a penalty on the two breakaway riders as if they had skipped the mountain loop section of the course. This effectively placed them well back in the field and off of the podium. The race organization did not provide all of the relevant information to the protesting teams (ie that no actual advantage had been incurred because of route choice, that the ambiguity in the rules played a role in their decision, that other teams made the same decision, and that attempts by the breakaway riders to clarify the rules had been made, on multiple occasions, and that the answers given by race staff/volunteers had indicated that their chosen route was within the rules) and allow them to retract their protests or offer suggestions as to what, if any, penalties should be levied. No outside or impartial source was consulted as to how best deal with the matter - all decisions were made 'in house', by the race directors, event promoter, and celebrity guest (cycling superstar floyd landis, lets say) - all of whom had at least some interest in the outcome beyond simply what was most fair to all involved given the entire set of facts available. There was no attempt at mediation and no forum was provided for the filing of grievances by the breakaway riders. No mention of the 'problem' or ownership of any of the factors that contributed to the controversy was hinted at by the race organization.
What would have happened if folks had watched this race on television? if the breakaway riders had had a camera in their face after the race and then after they were booted from the podium? If they had an audience for their side of the story on equal footing to that of the race organization? Certainly then the top riders (who are all good athletes and want to 'earn' their accolades as national champions) would have said something, right? Certainly the organization itself would have come under some sort of external pressure and had to significantly face the realities of loss of support from sponsors, etc, and perhaps more importantly had pressure to critically examine the discord between their decision making practices/competitor relations and their stated Organizational Goal of creating as fair of a race as possible.
It's ok to admit mistakes. yes, it's hard, but it's important. When is CP tracker going to, in the very least, take some responsibility for the clusterfuck that affected the 'official winners' as well as those breakaway riders? I'm hoping the answer is 'soon', but i'm not about to hold my breath.....