Mauro Vegni - the director of the Giro d’Italia – has expressed his heartfelt regret for the crash that brought down Geraint Thomas, Mikel Landa, Adam Yates, Wilco Kelderman and other riders during Sunday’s stage to Blockhaus but defended the role of the Italian police in protecting the riders.
“Naturally I’m really sorry for what happened, it’s terrible to lose overall contenders like that. It was perhaps a combination of an error of judgement and a ‘fatalità’ – a tragic event,” Vegni said.
“Sadly it ended as it did. However, I don’t think it’s right to point the finger at the police, I don’t want to give them all the blame because the Polizia has done a great job protecting the riders for 70 years. They’re naturally shocked by what happened too. Sadly things can go wrong and it shouldn’t ruin the image of the police. Of course it hurts us all.”
The crash happened when several riders on the left-hand side of the peloton hit a police motorbike, which was stopped on the side of the road to let the front group go past.
After one rider fell, a domino effect spread across the peloton, with five Team Sky riders caught up in the crash. Landa got up quickly but a leg injury meant he lost 26 minutes. Thomas chased despite his shoulder coming out of its socket and suffering multiple cuts. He lost 5:08 and declared his overall chances as ‘Game Over’. Adam Yates slumped to 17th overall at 4:49 down on Nairo Quintana. Kelderman was forced to quit the Giro d’Italia after fracturing his finger.
Professional cycling has endured a series of accidents in recent times, often involving race motorbikes. Riders understand they have to share roads with official motorbikes and vehicles but have called for improved safety provisions and stricter rules.
Movistar’s Rory Sutherland confirmed via Twitter on Sunday that he had complained to race officials about the lead television motorbike riding too close to the peloton during this year Giro d'Italia. Monday’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper questioned why the peloton seemed to move closer to the motorbike rather than away from it.
Vegni accepted that the motorbike should not have stopped where it did but explained the important role of the Italian police.
“There are about 50 vehicles – cars and motorbikes – that help protect the riders,” Vegni said, referring to the Italian police and the official race marshals.
“It’s perhaps difficult to understand that on a stage like this on, there are lots of small groups form behind the main peloton and so the main worry was to protect them on the climb.
“The police motorbike stopped to cover and protect the groups of riders that were forming. I could agree that it was an error of judgment to stop there, on a narrow section of road. He could have perhaps done it 100m further up the road.”