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Riders criticise crash-marred stage 3 final at the Tour de France

Tour de France 2021 108th Edition 3rd stage Lorient Pontivy 1829 km 28062021 Crash Injury Simon Clarke AUS Team Qhubeka NextHash Arnaud Demare FRA Groupama FDJ Jack Haig AUS Bahrain Victorious photo POOL Etienne GarnierBettiniPhoto2021
Simon Clarke (Qhubeka NextHash), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) were caught in a late crash on stage 3 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Several members of the Tour de France peloton have expressed their thoughts on the events of the crash-marred stage 3, which saw numerous riders hit the deck as they raced through narrow technical roads to the sprint finish in Pontivy.

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) was a notable victim, suffering multiple wounds and losing 1:21 after crashing in the tightly packed peloton nine kilometres from the finish, while a large group of riders crashed at the four-kilometre mark with Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) out of the race as a result.

Deceuninck-QuickStep rider Tim Declercq said after the stage that riders had requested before the stage start for GC times to be taken at eight kilometres from the finish, before a tight and technical descent towards the finish, but the request was not answered.

"I think it was something that we could've maybe expected," he said. "I knew from the riders that there was a demand to take the time at 8 kilometres to because we knew it was such a small road on the descent and a lot of chance for gaps to appear.

"I know that GC guys can't risk losing 15 seconds, but like this it would've been much less stress because then maybe all the GC team wouldn't be in the battle. Everyone wants to be in the first 20 riders but there's only place for 20 riders.

"With the demand we made to take the time at 8km to go, it's not going to change anything for the race unless they want to see crashes, but I hope nobody is like that," Declerq continued.

"I think maybe we can learn lessons from this, the organisers and the UCI in the future. I became a father a year ago and it's something you think about. Nobody likes to crash, and it shouldn't be what cycling is about."

Numerous other riders took to Twitter to express their frustrations with the stage, including Israel Start-Up Nation veteran André Greipel. The German, riding his 11th Tour, wrote that the route designers should try competing on narrow roads in a peloton of riders for themselves.

"Whoever designed today's stage of Le Tour should try to ride with 180 riders on a twisty five-metre wide road next to each other and pushing to the limits. Of course, we riders make the race at the end, but the riders also ask for an earlier time taking at 5km to go, which was refused."

Greipel's teammate described the finish as "crazy", adding that the route wasn't suited for a Tour de France peloton.

"You can't expect riders to ride easy until its safe to resume racing especially at 3km to go. When racing is on, it's tight. It's purely roads are too narrow for the Tour de France," he wrote.

Cofidis rider Simon Geschke compared the situation to the recent ban on 'unsafe' riding positions, while Trek-Segafredo's Julien Bernard sarcastically brought up the infamous 'sock height' rule, contrasting it to the route planning of stage 3.

"Funny how the super tuck and forearm positions got banned for 'safety reasons' while at the same time we have finishes like today in Le Tour," wrote Geschke.

"I watched the replay of today's finale and frankly everyone had socks that were the right height, so everything is fine," wrote Bernard.

Former triple green jersey winner Robbie McEwen described the course design as "irresponsible", adding that the organisers showed a "total disregard for safety", with his Tweet retweeted by AG2R Citroën leader Ben O'Connor.

"No pleasure in commentating on a Tour de France stage full of so many crashes resulting in nasty injuries, shattered hopes & riders out of the race," McEwen wrote. "Irresponsible course design, total disregard for safety & lack of respect for the athletes."

Cofidis leader Guillaume Martin said he had survived a 'slalom' through the crashes and added that there must be a reflection on what happened during the stage. Groupama-FDJ's William Bonnet wrote that the riders are always the last priority, while Ineos Grenadiers' Michał Kwiatkowski also took note of the conditions during the early stages of the race.

"Phew! Arrived safely after a slalom event in the middle of the falls. A reflection must undoubtedly be carried out to avoid the chaos that we saw in the end," wrote Martin.

"Guys, they are going to tell you that you don't know how to ride, that you have a nerve, that you have shitty equipment, that the host cities have paid, but [the] show must go on!!" wrote Bonnet.

"In F1 there's qualifying for a reason," wrote Kwiatkowski. "What would happen in the first corner if everyone was allowed to start from P1? Success at Le Tour changes people's lives, and we're allowed 184 riders to take yellow, win a stage, take a jersey on day one, but we all know that road is eight metres wide."

Rider unions, the CPA and the newly founded The Rider's Union both weighed in with criticisms of the stage and how it was planned.

"Whilst we want to acknowledge Tim Merlier’s win in this crash-marred race, our priority is – as it always is – rider safety. We are currently in direct conversation with riders. We will keep you updated via our website and social channels," wrote the CPA.

"The events of today are not incidents. There is something wrong with the choice of parcours and signing it off. Thinking more rules is the answer to greater safety is false. Common sense is. Racing has become faster – don't use it as an excuse, but as reason for better safety!" wrote The Rider's Union.

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Daniel joined Cyclingnews as staff writer in August 2019 after working as a freelance journalist for seven years, including time spent working for Cyclingnews and sister magazine, Procycling.