MORE Tour de France chaos has experts blaming the race organisers, writes JOHN TREVORROW:
ANOTHER day of carnage at the Tour de France has wrecked Australia’s hopes and turned the GC battle on its head as a series of high-speed crashes resulted in the challengingly narrow roads of Brittany being littered with wounded bodies.
Star sprinter Caleb Ewan fell in the final 150 metres with the stage win in his grasp and is out with a broken collarbone and Jack Haig who was sitting in sixth place overall and looking set for a podium challenge suffered the same fate in a huge crash four kilometres out.
Chaos was the order of the day with Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) crashing with Dutchman Robert Gesink (Jumbo Visma) early in the stage. Thomas dislocated his shoulder but managed to get himself back into the peloton. Unfortunately the Dutchman could not continue.
But the real drama happened in the extremely dangerous final 10 kms. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) was the first to go down and although his remaining teammates stopped to help him the Slovenian lost 1.21 seconds by the finish.
As a result of the crashes, only Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) of the main contenders, managed to avoid losing time.
Race favourite Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) was held up by the crash and he and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) lost 26 seconds.
The leading Australian is now Lucas Hamilton (Team BikeExchange) in 21st spot but only 1 min 42 seconds down. Next is Michael Matthews 30th at 3.04 but still very much in the hunt for the Green jersey. Ben O’Connor is 40th at 3.31 seconds with Richie Porte 41st only three seconds further back and the pair escaped the day unscathed and are both still in the mix.
Many riders and team bosses are blaming the race organisers for the disastrous day. A rider delegation went to the officials before the start and raised their concerns about the dangerous finale and requested that the current rule that allows riders caught in a crash in the final three kms to receive bunch time, be changed to eight kms to go – but it fell on deaf ears.
There is no doubt the race has changed a lot over the past decade and the organisers need to change with it. Dishing out courses like stage 3 is a recipe for disaster.
Former champion Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen analysed the incident, while taking aim at the race organisers.
“The stage finale shouldn’t have occurred and a lot of others agree,” McEwen said.
“Riders in the Tour de France – after finding out about the route – they asked the UCI to take the times for the general classification at eight kilometres to go, to try and avoid the situation we ended up with.
“But it fell on deaf ears – there’s been absolute carnage, a lot of injuries, a lot of Tour hopes dashed and in the early part of the Tour, you just shouldn’t be sending a raging peloton down narrow winding roads like that.
“It’s too late now, the damage is done.
“Caleb Ewan was looking to go for the inside of the corner but Tim Merlier was also looking for the shortest route and Peter Sagan didn’t want to lose his position in the wheel of Merlier.
“As Ewan comes through the inside, it’s disaster.
“Ewan slid himself up the inside and, in fact, he overlaps the wheel of Merlier.
“As Merlier gets out of the saddle, his bike moves backwards just a touch towards Caleb.Embed from Getty Images
“He’s a little bit too close, there’s a touch of wheels and Caleb was angled to the outside. It catipulted Caleb over the bars and took Sagan out with him.”
Groupama FDJ team manager Marc Madiot, usually a staunch supporter of ASO, had this to say.“I am a father. There are many families who watch the Tour de France on television. There are many children who watch the Tour de France. There are many mothers who watch the Tour de France on television,” he said.
“Well, tonight, I don’t want my kid to be a professional cyclist. My wife doesn’t want my kid to ride a bike, and many families don’t want their kids to ride a bike after what we have seen today.
“We’ve been talking about this for years, but now we have to find solutions. We can’t go on like this, it’s not cycling anymore. The bend with 150 metres to go! What state is Caleb Ewan in? And the others? So we have to change, we have to be able to say that it’s not working anymore.”
Madiot listed things that could change to make it safer for the cyclists as they ride along, with constant team orders coming through their earpieces, sometimes on dangerous roads and on light, fragile bikes.