Bahrain-Merida still considering legal action after Nibali Tour de France incident

'It's huge damage to us' says team manager Copeland

Almost a week after the Tour de France's conclusion, and three weeks since Vincenzo Nibali was forced to abandon the race, Bahrain-Merida is still considering taking legal action against ASO.

A possible legal dispute comes after Nibali was taken out in a crash as the race climbed Alpe d'Huez. It was initially suspected that the Italian was brought down by a race motorbike, but footage later suggested that the rider was caught up in a spectator's camera strap. Although Nibali finished the stage and moved into fourth overall, he was later diagnosed with a fractured vertebra. He has since undergone surgery and is planning on riding the Vuelta a España before targeting the World Championships in Austria later this year.

However, Bahrain-Merida are still counting the cost for their Tour disappointment. Letters have been exchanged between the team, the UCI and Tour de France race organisers, ASO. The sport's governing body, while not responsible for the incident, have looked to calm any form of tension, while ASO has expressed sympathy with the situation.

"We're evaluating the situation with our lawyers," Bahrain-Merdia's Brent Copeland told Cyclingnews.

"We're looking to see how and why it happened, and why those people had pushed onto that side of the road with policemen standing by. We believe that it's a situation where the organization could have done more to close off that area. You're riding Alpe d'Huez. You know that it's a climb where guys are going to start attacking in the last four or five kilometers, if not before. It's the most important climb and you know that there are going to be huge crowds. We feel that there should have been more to protect that area.

"It's huge damage to us not having Vincenzo at the Tour in the last two weeks and affects visibility. A Tour de France for a team tends to bring in around 60 to 70 per cent of your yearly visibility. I don't know the exact figures and we're looking into that. We understand that it's possible not to protect the whole route but at least on Alpe d'Huez, there should be more security for the riders. For the UCI, our point is that they should put more into the regulations for the organisers, on a climb like this. I don't want to use other organisers as examples but there have been improvements in other races when it comes to protecting riders on really narrow roads.

At the Tour de France the UCI President, David Lappartient, told Cyclingnews that he had been in contact with both the team and ASO, and had looked to mediate a resolution.

"As the president of the UCI, I wrote a letter to Mr. Prudhomme and I spoke to him. They've added more barriers this year than ever before, 1 to 3km at the start of Alpe d'Huez and then 4km at the end. They had 500 police on the climb but it's hard to watch everyone when you have 12 million people on the roads at the Tour de France. We need to see how we can increase the protection. Flares have now been banned but you can still have some crazy people.

"I spoke with Brent Copeland and I understood he was disappointed to lose his best rider. It's up to him and I can't interfere. They need to demonstrate that the Tour was responsible for the incident and I don't know. You can't really see what happened."

RUNNING WITH WOLVES from Cyclingnews Films on Vimeo.

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