Dylan van Baarle (Team Sky) was the worst off after several riders crashed just past the finish line of stage 12 at the Vuelta a Espana. Stage winner Alexandre Geniez (AG2R La Mondiale) and fourth-place finisher Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) were also caught up but avoided any serious injury in the incident.
The crash was caused when a member of the organisation, who had his back to the oncoming riders, turned across the road. The organisation member had walked down beyond the finish line to speak to a police officer and had been on his way back up the finishing straight when the riders arrived. The finish area was exceptionally narrow and there was no room for the riders to go around so they shouted for him to move.
Geniez was the first to collide with the person, who was not seriously injured but left with several cuts and abrasions to his cheek and head. The Frenchman was sent veering off to the left but was saved from hitting the tarmac at speed when a policeman stationed at the side of the road caught him.
“It’s a real pity things like that happen, despite all the security measures that are in place and all those police there,” Geniez said afterwards. “I don’t understand why there are so many people in the finish area. If there had been a bunch sprint finish and 100 riders crossing the line at the same time, it could have been a lot more serious.”
Van Baarle had just lost the sprint to Geniez and was right behind him as they rolled past the line. The Dutchman was left with nowhere to go and somersaulted over the organisation member. He received injuries to his shoulder, elbow, ribs and thigh in the fall. Van Baarle looked in considerable pain and had blood on himself and his kit as he hobbled onto the team bus. Following initial examinations, Team Sky says that Van Baarle did not break any bones and hope that he will be able to continue the race.
“I just saw the video,” said Team Sky directeur sportif Gabriel Rasch. “I saw the person running with their back to the riders and I saw the riders crash into him. He’s a person that shouldn’t be there. At a place like this, you should look at the riders. It’s their safety that is the most important thing. I just heard from the doctors so far that it doesn’t look like anything is broken. He’s just in pain with some bruises. We’ll see during the night how it is. Hopefully, he can start tomorrow.”
The Vuelta a España organisation issued a statement saying it wishes "apologise to the following riders: Alexandre Geniez (AG2R La Mondiale), Dylan van Baarle (Team Sky), Mark Padun (Bahrain-Merida) and Dylan Teuns (BMC), involved in the incident that happened at the end of stage 12 at Faro de Estaca de Bares. We wish them a speedy recovery and a good end of Vuelta."
The crash is the second post-finish incident at this year’s Vuelta a Espana after Geniez’s teammate Julien Duval was injured when barriers were blown across the road by a race helicopter flying too low. Thursday's incident sparked a furious and immediate reaction from the Professional Cyclists Association (CPA), which said that organisations needed to be held accountable for failure to protect the safety of riders.
"It is not acceptable that after months of work of all the stakeholders to improve the safety at the races, we are still seeing episodes such as the fall at the arrival of the 12th stage of the today's Vuelta,” said CPA president Gianni Bugno.
"I am really tired of seeing this superficiality in applying the regulations set out in the Organizer Specifications. This lack of attention from the organizers demonstrates a total lack of respect towards us that have worked hard to improve the safety at the races and a total lack of consideration towards the riders.
“We are no longer willing to accept post apologies for foreseeable accidents," Bugno continued. "The organizers must do their duty and must be penalised if they do not comply with the regulations. The UCI must intervene to verify that the regulations are respected. There are no extenuating circumstances. We are very disappointed by this latest lack of attention towards the riders and towards all the work we have been doing for months. Cycling is becoming a dangerous sport rather than improving and this time we are no longer willing to listen to those who do not respect the rules.”