Van Poppel makes an amazing save in Tour de Suisse stage 4 finale
Team Sky sprinter Danny van Poppel relied on his bike handling skills to take an emergency exit from the final corner of stage 4 at the Tour de Suisse, grabbing a handful of brake and momentarily executing a front wheelie after the inside line he was hoping to take suddenly looked impossible.
Van Poppel put his right foot on the ground as he slid toward the barriers in the tight right corner that came just 140 metres from the finish in Champagne. Van Poppel set up for a line inside of Sagan, but the 22-year-old Dutchman was forced wide into the barriers, somehow managing to stay upright and avoid a high-speed crash.
Etixx-QuickStep’s Max Richeze and Fernando Gaviria finished first and second on the stage, followed by overall race leader Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) in third. Van Poppel eventually crossed the line in 26th place, two seconds behind the top three.
Trek-Segafredo's Jasper Stuyven, who finished fifth and so had a front-row seat for Van Poppel's ride, said he could tell someone wasn't going to make it through the corner.
"Going into the last corner Sagan and Van Poppel were going nuts and I was sure someone wasn't going to make it through, and I was right because Danny crashed," Stuyven said. "I calculated for that, and as a result, I was almost standing still to go around, and then one guy passed me on the line."
Richeze first Argentinean to win Tour de Suisse stage
The technical finish and near-crash of Van Poppel took nothing away from Maximiliano Richeze's victory, which earned him the distinction of becoming the first Argentinean to win a stage in the Tour de Suisse.
“What a race this was, I still can’t believe it! It’s like a dream," Richeze said. "This morning, at the briefing, we talked about the finale, because we knew the tricky and technical corner will be the key to winning the stage and our plan was to be first and second as we entered in that bend. My sprint was until the corner, but as Fernando didn’t try to overtake me, deciding to protect me instead, I went all the way to the line. I want to thank him for this and also to the entire team for their huge work and support!”
The result is a confirmation that the fracture to his femur sustained in the Tour de San Luis had no lasting effect on the 33-year-old.
"The start of the year wasn’t easy, with that injury and the recovery period during which I had to walk with the help of a crutch, but these things are in the past and now I am living the day and enjoying this beautiful moment. To be the first Argentinian stage winner in the Tour de Suisse is a big achievement, which makes me proud and happy.”
Riders critical of Tour de Suisse stage 4 finish
Stage 4 at the Tour de Suisse can be added to the growing list of safety concerns that riders have taken issue with. A 90-degree right turn with 140 metres to go caused Team Sky’s Danny van Poppel to slide out and hit the barriers on the opposite side of the road, although the 22-year-old Dutch sprinter managed to save himself – an others – by keeping his bike upright.
His teammate Geraint Thomas tweeted his dissatisfaction with the course.
So @UCI_cycling judges relegated Danny for dangerous riding... What do you expect with a corner like that less than 150m to go
The professional riders association (CPA) recently released several safety suggestions that it has provided the UCI as the sports’ governing body grapples with ways to create a safer environment for races, including a set of protocol for the final 3km of every stage. A response to Thomas’ tweet from Dimension Data rider Matt Brammeier made it clear that Tuesday’s finale in Switzerland didn’t live up to the CPA’s suggestions.
Fabian Cancellara was also critical of race organisers’ route planning.
Other riders, however, said there were more problems with Tuesday’s stage than just the final 3km.
"In the end, I think that was one of the most dangerous final 20 kilometers I have ever done," said Trek-Segafredo rider Kiel Reijnen in a report on the team’s website.
This year’s fourth stage isn’t the first time the Tour de Suisse has drawn the peloton’s ire. Riders were also critical of the sixth stage last year when they had to deal with a technical finale that featured several sharp corners and traffic furniture. Peter Sagan demonstrated his bike skills in winning the stage, but the Biel finish proved difficult for the majority of the peloton.
Keagan Girdlestone stable, out of coma
South African Keagan Girdlestone is out of a coma and responsive nine days after crashing through the back window of a team car in the Coppa della Pace on June 5.
The 19-year-old who rides for the Dimension Data Continental team is still in critical condition but breathing on his own, according to an update by his father Wayne Girdlestone.
"The ventilator has been removed and he is breathing on his own. While these are all steps in the right direction, his injuries are still complicated. We are hopeful that he continues showing signs of improvement with each passing day," Wayne Girdlestone wrote.
Girdlestone was reportedly chasing back from a previous crash in the follow cars when one of the team vehicles slowed suddenly, and he hit it at full speed in an incident similar to the one of Ian Crane in the 2014 USA Pro Challenge. While Crane recovered, he has not returned to professional racing.
"As always, his family are grateful for the continued support from all over the world, with special thanks to the cycling community at large, Robbie Hunter of Pro Touch Global Management as well as the staff of Rimini Hospital. Special mention to the family who own Hotel Betulla in Rimini who have gone to extraordinary lengths to assist Desere and Wayne through this difficult time."
Edvald Boasson Hagen dedicated his stage victory in the Critérium du Dauphiné last week to Girdlestone.