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Tour de France cyclists protest road safety after crash-marred stage

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The flash of passing cyclists paused briefly at the start of the fourth day of the Tour de France Tuesday as riders protested road conditions after a number of crashes marred the third stage.

Riders, many of whom bore scrapes and bandages after those crashes Monday, stopped for a minute at the start of the 93.5-mile Stage 4 ride from Redon to Fougeres, stepping off their bikes and waiting silently before resuming their ride.

The gesture came after several riders criticized race organizers for what they considered to be a dangerous route for a sprint to the Stage 3 finish line in western Brittany. Caleb Ewan, winner of two stages last year, was knocked out of the race with a collarbone broken in four places, and he brought down Peter Sagan as the stage drew to a close.

Philippe Gilbert, a Belgian rider and Ewan's Lotto Soudal teammate, said in a video that riders "had analyzed the route and saw that the finale was extremely dangerous," adding that ASO, the race organizer, supported their request to temper frenzied finishes and jostling by stopping the timing of riders three kilometers from the finish line. "But the UCI [cycling's governing body] commissaires did not accept the request, it was rejected in the morning at the start of the race."

He called the decision "a big mistake from the people who approved this route" but noted that the cyclists' scout teams bore some responsibility for not speaking up.

American rider Brandon McNulty called the scene Monday "a bit of a disgrace for everyone - too many crashes - but it is what it is."

During the opening stage Saturday, there were two big pileups, the first of which was caused by a spectator. Marc Madiot, a sports director from the Groupama FDJ team, was alarmed by the sight of riders sprawled across the pavement in both instances. "My wife does not want to see my son on a bike," he said Saturday. "It's been years that we are talking about (safety), we need to find solutions. It's not bike racing anymore. One day there will be dead people."

Thierry Gouvenou, who is in charge of the Tour route, pointed out that there are increasing challenges for organizers. "There are no longer any medium-sized towns without a small island, roundabout or narrowing," he told L'Equipe (via the Associated Press). "Ten years ago, there were 1,100 dangerous points on the Tour de France. This year, there are 2,300. If the level of demand becomes too great, there will be no more finishes. That's where we are."

In a statement, the cyclists' union said it had requested a meeting with the Union Cycliste Internationale and race officials. "Following the crashes during the third stage of the Tour de France, the riders have been discussing how they wish to proceed to show their dissatisfaction with safety measures in place and demand their concerns are taken seriously. Their frustration about foreseeable and preventable action is enormous," the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés, which is recognized by the UCI, said in a statement.

"Their frustration about foreseeable and preventable action is enormous. They wish to stress their respect for their sponsors, their sports groups, the organizer, their international institutions. Supporters are very important to them - and this is why they will be riding today.

"In return, the riders of the Tour de France ask for the same respect - respect for their safety."

 

As riders began Stage 4, they bore signs of Monday's crashes. Primož Roglič of the Jumbo-Visma had a number of white bandages on his arms and legs Tuesday from another crash, unrelated to the finish line chaos, with Jack Haig of Bahrain Victorious. Geraint Thomas also of the Uneos Grenadiers team dislocated his shoulder in a crash that followed a collision, but was able to continue when a medic popped it back into place.

Published : June 30, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Cindy Boren