Lightning may never strike in the same place twice, but when it comes to attacking UCI Road World Championships bike riders, Australian birds do appear to have their favorites as Holland’s Bauke Mollema found to his cost on Wednesday.
The current Dutch national time trial champion and multiple Tour de France stage winner had already been divebombed while training on Tuesday by a territorially-minded magpie as the bird clattered into the back of his helmet.
Then, barely 24 hours later, Mollema had a second close encounter of the avian kind when he was targeted by a seagull while participating for the Netherlands in the mixed relay TTT race. In dramatic imagery, the bird collided head-on with Mollema’s left shoulder before flying away.
In a day of setbacks both large and small for the Netherlands team, Mollema had already endured a mechanical incident in the same TTT event. Then later on, teammate Annemiek van Vleuten suffered a dramatic early crash that left her with a fractured elbow.
The Netherlands team was one of the leading favorites for the 28km mixed relay TTT but eventually had to settle for fifth.
Mollema had been distanced by his teammates at the time of the seagull attack, and as on Tuesday, was able to continue riding. He apparently did not stop talking to reporters in the media mixed zone afterwards.
But while the odds of two such collisions in such a short space of time seem high, and it is not clear why the seagull chose to go for the Dutchman, the magpie incident is apparently far from rare at this time of year in Australia.
Belgium’s Remco Evenepoel had said that he was followed and ‘terrified’ by a magpie ahead of the weekend’s time trials, while Grace Brown and Elynor Backstedt have since reported run-ins of their own.
There is a website dedicated to recording magpie attacks – Magpie Alert – which lists over 1,500 attacks this year alone.