Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) shipped almost a minute in after yet another late crash at the 2018 Tour de France. Although some damage was perhaps unavoidable, the extent of it would have been significantly less were it not for a basic communication error.
The Russian rider hit the deck in a big crash with just over five kilometres remaining of stage 4 but failed to inform his team over race radio.
Ian Boswell, Robert Kiserlovski and Pavel Kochetkov were also involved in the crash and were on hand to help pace Zakarin back towards the peloton, but in normal circumstances, he would have had the German powerhouse duo of Tony Martin and Nils Politt in front of him, too.
The problem was that the Katusha-Alpecin directors had no idea Zakarin had crashed until 2.5km later, by which point it was too late to do much about it.
"There was no communiqué on the radio until the last moment, so we didn't know anything," Dimitri Konyshev said outside the Katusha bus in Sarzeau. "If we'd have known sooner we could have stopped two riders. We could have stopped Nils and Tony. It wouldn't have changed a lot, but we could have rescued some seconds."
Konyshev said that Zakarin had suffered no injuries, but he might well receive a dressing down from the team staff this evening.
"It's his responsibility to say in the radio. He did not communicate with us," Konyshev said. "Maybe he was a little bit pissed off. In a situation like this, it's always easy to talk after, but when you're in the situation you just try to close the gap and maybe you say nothing on the radio."
While Zakarin failed to keep his team in the loop, the Tour de France race radio brought news of the crash to the team car, though that itself was some minutes after the event. By the time Konyshev had learned of the problems and reached Zakarin with 2.5km to go, it was too late to call Martin and Politt back from the peloton.
"It made no sense to make people wait. I didn't know about it, and when I saw the situation, it was already too late," Konyshev said.
"If they stopped completely, it's almost one kilometre in the front, so it's for nothing. OK it looks really not nice but on the other hand, it's only for the show – you don't gain time with two guys in the final kilometre.
"It was Boswell and Kiserlovski waiting, then Kochetkov. Then one-by-one they were dropped because Ilnur was too strong."
Zakarin crossed the line alone, losing 59 valuable seconds in the fight for the general classification. After finishing on the podium of the Vuelta a España last year, he came to France with ambitions of a top-five finish, but this represents a major setback.
That said, Konyshev preferred to look for the silver lining. Zakarin was not injured, he confirmed, and he insisted also that few riders will come through the chaos of the first week unscathed.
"He has no injuries, and that's the most important thing," said Konyshev.
"It's not nice. It's stupid because they crashed in the front. You always ask the guys to be in the front, and then they crash in the front. They were in first 25-30 positions. I don't know how it happened but they were in a good position. It was only missing communication with him.
"The first nine days are all like this. One time it's someone, one time someone else. When we come to the Alps it will be more or less the same situation. A lot of riders already lost a minute. It can happen to everyone. That's the Tour."
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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