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Freire responds to shooting incident

By:
Daniel Simms
Published:
July 18, 2009, 12:08 BST,
Updated:
July 18, 2009, 13:08 BST
Edition:
First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, July 18, 2009
Green jersey contender Oscar Freire (Rabobank) makes an adjustment to his saddle before a training ride.

Green jersey contender Oscar Freire (Rabobank) makes an adjustment to his saddle before a training ride.

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Rabobank expresses security concerns

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) has spoken about the incident that saw him shot at during the Tour de France's stage 13. The Spaniard was descending the Cote du Platzerwasel in the peloton on Friday when he felt a stabbing pain in his thigh. Later during the stage Freire pulled a pellet, identified later as being fired from an air pistol, out of his leg.

"It must have been the action of a madman," the three-time World Champion said Friday evening, according to HLN.be. “It is just bad luck that I was hit.”

After the stage, Rabobank team doctor Dion van Bommel, tended the wound. Van Bommel is also a doctor in the Dutch army, and recognized the pellet as coming from an air pistol. "I am leaving in December for four months in Afghanistan," said Van Bommel on Friday evening. "There you expect such things, not here in the Tour de France."

Freire's teammate, Juan Manuel Garate, said he heard three shots. Freire noted that at the time of the incident, “there was no spectators there. We were riding through a forest."

Coincidentally, it was not the first time that Freire has been shot with an air gun while riding. The first time occured was when he was 16 years old and riding a motorcycle.

His team is not taking the incident lightly. "We often laugh over cyclists such as Cadel Evans and Lance Armstrong having bodyguards at the Tour with them," said team spokesman Luuc Eisenga. "But this is really frightening. A cycling is not completely secure, you can not have two hundred kilometers of barriers in place."

The team reported the shooting to race organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), who refered the incident to French police. Freire had himself attempted to report the shooting the race jury during the stage, but was unable to communicate with the commissaires.

 “[I went to their car], but they did not understand me, apparently they did not speak Spanish or English. I asked Colombian rider Leonard Duque (Cofidis), who speaks French, to tell them what had occurred. But he could not explain it either.”

Garmin-Slipstream rider, Julien Dean, was also injured in the attack. Another of the pellets hitting the New Zealander on his index finger.

Nicolas Roche of AG2R La Mondiale had believed he had been the victim of a similar attack earlier in the week. He was standing in the Tour Village before a stage when he was “shot” in the back of the leg, resulting in a large bruise. The French gendarmerie investigated and concluded that Roche had been hit by a piece of shrapnel from an exploding ice compressor.

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