In today's last stage of the 2006 Eneco Tour of Benelux, Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher was able to snatch the overall victory from Discovery's George Hincapie - but in a most unhappy fashion. Indeed, 'Schumi' did not smile once during the podium celebration, as he knew that it wasn't his sporting abilities that made him win over his American rival, but a crash directly caused by the German.
With only 50 metres to go, Schumacher was racing in front of the chasing bunch, followed by Hincapie, when a spectator leaned far over the barriers and hit the Gerolsteiner rider on the left shoulder - as a result, Schumacher abruptly swerved to the right, and Hincapie's front wheel touched his back tyre, which made the American crash.
"I am so sorry this happened; I did not want to win this way at all," the 25 year-old said. "I was hit by a spectator and had to react - it wasn't my fault." After the finish, there was much discussion in Ans about a possible relegation of the German, but finally the jury of commissaires attributed the third placing to Schumacher, and therefore its four bonus seconds, which made him victorious over Hincapie by only one second.
"The jury saw that Stefan did not swerve on purpose," commented Gerolsteiner directeur sportif Christian Wegmann. "Stefan just prevented himself from crashing, but he wasn't guilty of Hincapie's fall. We did win, but we're not in high spirits."