Cavendish Blasts Tour De France Organizers After Opening Stage Finish-Line Chaos
British cyclist Mark Cavendish's anger at Saturday's Tour de France chaos had not subsided Sunday morning "as the riders prepared for what they hoped would be a more straightforward second stage," according to Ian Parker of the PA. Cavendish "was left fuming when his hopes of wearing the famous yellow jersey for the first time in his career were ended amid carnage in Bastia, where a team bus became lodged under the finish line gantry, in turn causing organisers to initially move the finish line by three kilometres before restoring the original route." With those decisions "made as the peloton was baring down on the town," the confusion was blamed for a major crash 6km from the line which ended the chances of not only Cavendish but also rivals Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel, with Marcel Kittel taking the stage win instead (PA, 6/30). In London, Mike Walters reported the Orica-GreenEDGE team support bus got stuck under the finish line on Bastia's "pictureSque waterfront." With the leaders "only 10km from the end of their 213km journey from Porto Vecchio, officials were plunged into panic, frantically relaying messages via team radios to the peloton that the finish might be brought forward by 3km." When the stranded coach was freed from its wedge under the finish-banner arch with only minutes to spare, "race marshals reinstated the original winning post as the designated finish." Cavendish then ground to a halt behind the spectacular pile-up -- which brought down around 25 riders (DAILY MIRROR, 6/30). REUTERS' Julien Pretot reported line manager Jean-Louis Pages said, "When a bus arrives near the finish line the driver must ask the permission to cross it. Since this bus was late (and others had been through the finish already) we had already lowered the banner." Pages said that "the driver had not asked for authorisation to go through." Pages: "Everybody helped out. We deflated the tIres of the bus so we could move it away as the peloton was fast approaching" (REUTERS, 6/29).
DRIVER DEFENDS ACTIONS: In Sydney, Rupert Guinness reported Gary Atxa, the Orica-GreenEDGE driver the behind the wheel of the team bus that got stuck in the finishing arch of the 213km first stage of the Tour de France, "defended his actions in the incident before the race resumed for stage two on Sunday." Atxa: "I was a bit late and when I arrived at the finish I followed the instructions that were given to me. When I arrived at the finish line I saw that it was a bit low, but they said, 'Advance, advance!' I saw that the others had passed before me, so I did exactly the same thing; but it was bad luck that it [the finishing arch] was a little low and what happened happened" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 7/1).
'PANIC TOOK OVER': In London, Jeremy Whittle reported the "policing of the 4,500 vehicles on the route du Tour as it approached Bastia was confused and chaotic, with many vehicles being sent the wrong way by a panicking and overwhelmed local gendarmerie." The prospect of 198 riders speeding toward the finish line, at 50 miles an hour, "hellbent on winning the first yellow jersey, with a huge bus in their path, was unthinkable." And as the race organization fought to dislodge the Orica-GreenEDGE bus from the finish line gantry, "panic took over." A decision was made that the finish line "would be moved, to a point three kilometres earlier." The riders were told through race radio, but some of them couldn’t hear what was being said. Kittel said, "I didn’t know the bus was stuck. About six or seven kilometres from the line, our director was shouting in the radio, but the sound of the TV helicopters and the fans was so loud, I couldn’t hear what he was saying" (LONDON TIMES, 6/29).