The finishing straight crash that has put Alberto Contador's Giro d'Italia at risk has once again brought into sharp focus the issue of spectators encroaching onto the road, but race director Mauro Vegni has admitted there is little more the organisers can do about it.
A spectator aboard a fixed-wheel bike sparked a mass crash on stage 2 when he rode into the peloton in the finale near Genoa, while the spill in the final metres Castiglione della Pescaia on Thursday appeared to have been caused by a spectator who leant across a barrier to take a photograph.
Daniele Colli (Nippo-Vini Fantini) was the first rider to fall and the worst-affected – he sustained a suspected broken arm and was taken away by ambulance – while the maglia rosa Contador was also brought down in the incident, suffering a reported temporary dislocation of his left shoulder. A decision on his continued participation in the race will be taken on Friday morning.
"I don't feel that we have to put the Giro in a cage away from the public," Vegni said to reporters after the stage. "It's not right that the thousands of people who come out to watch the race are penalised because of the actions of one person. But unfortunately, nowadays situations with cameras and mobile phones have become so dangerous and the people don't seem to realise the risks these boys are running."
Contador's injury was such that he was unable to put on the pink jersey when he visited the podium, and he skipped the usual race leader's press conference in order to undergo an x-ray at the Tinkoff-Saxo hotel in nearby Punta Ala. In the immediate aftermath of the stage, Vegni had entered into lengthy discussions with Tinkoff-Saxo general manager Stefano Feltrin and he would later pay a visit to the team hotel.
"I spoke with Feltrin and there's obviously regret and worry but it's just one of those things. You have a race that goes through so many cities and places with thousands of people there and nothing happens," Vegni said. "Then here, where there were barriers all the way, something like that happens."
In a bid to lessen the risks taken by general classification contenders during bunch finishes, the regulations already stipulate that riders who crash in the final three kilometres are not penalised any time in the overall standings. Vegni does not believe there is any need for that rule to be adapted further.
"Last year, with the pavé, the Tour lost two protagonists, that's cycling," he said. "Maybe they [Contador and the GC riders – ed.] could have stayed a few metres back but it's not like they were in the first 20 riders with the trains, they were a bit further back. But when one person falls in that situation, many do. It was bad luck."
Vegni confirmed that the culprit for Sunday's crash has yet to be identified, despite amateur video footage of the incident, though he downplayed the idea of taking legal action against those who caused the crashes.
RCS Sport has been criticised heavily in recent years for some of the rider safety concerns that have arisen during the Giro, not least when the descent of the Crostis was – eventually – scratched from the route in 2011, and when the snowbound descent of the Stelvio was unsuccessfully neutralised last year. In this instance, however, Vegni felt that there was no catering for the actions of one person among thousands.
"We can't punish 20,000 people because of the actions of one person," he said, with a degree of resignation.