Many of the riders at Tirreno-Adriatico were shocked to see the Bora-Hansgrohe crash at speed after a pedestrian walked into the road ahead of them during the opening team time trial on the Lido di Camaiore seafront.
Some teams were out on the road but many saw the incident live on television as they prepared for their own ride. They were somewhat shocked and angry that it happened, knowing it could have happened to them.
"I did see it, it was quite scary to watch," Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) said after his ride.
"There was a policeman there as well. It shouldn't happen. Hopefully, the guys are all right and they guy they hit, too, because he looked like he was knocked out."
Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) suggested the local police officer on the side of the road could have done more to stop the pedestrian crossing the road just before the Bora-Hansgrohe riders arrived.
"I saw it. That's what you have the people on the side of the road for," he said. "I saw the video and there was a guy there and he didn't do anything. It shouldn't happen. Human mistakes I guess, but it's costly."
The Bora-Hansgrohe team were travelling at around 55km/h just 3.5 kilometres into the 21.5km stage when the incident happened.
A local police officer was marshalling a road junction, but the pedestrian walked out into the road from the opposite side in front of the riders. Daniel Oss was leading the team of seven Bora-Hansgrohe riders. He shouted and swerved to avoid the man, but Rafal Majka was further back and ploughed into him, taking down Oscar Gatto, who was directly behind him.
Gatto was not seriously hurt, but Majka had a large bump and bleeding on his forehead. The team said he would try to continue in the race but confirmed they will do additional tests and diagnostics in order to evaluate whether the impact caused a concussion.
The pedestrian also landed heavily and was taken to hospital for treatment but is reportedly not in a life-threatening condition.
The Mitchelton-Scott team also saw the incident on television before their ride. The Australian team had their own dangerous moment when another pedestrian with a dog walked out into the road in front of them in the final kilometre. Fortunately, she realised the danger she had created and pulled her dog back. The riders just avoided hitting it at speed.
"We were sitting in the bus before our warm-up when we saw the Bora-Hansgrohe team incident," Michael Hepburn - the first race leader after Mitchelton-Scott won the team time trial - revealed in the post-race press conference.
"It's pretty unfortunate, I don't think something like that should happen in a race. I don't know what the guy was doing, he didn't see it. I hope those guys are alright," he said.
"Yeah, we also saw the lady with the dog with a kilometre to go," Hepburn revealed. "Luckily we were on the bars coming out of the corner and so we were able to react quickly. It could have been quite unpleasant."
Rider safety is a hugely important issue. Riders and teams are focused on racing their bikes, convinced that race organisers and police have fully closed the roads.
Metal barriers are used at key points of race routes such as the start and finish to hold back the crowds. Other sections of the Tirreno-Adriatico team time trial course were taped off to dissuade the public from entering the road, but spectators and pedestrians are also expected to respect rider safety.
Bora-Hansgrohe directeur sportif Patxi Vila was in the team car just behind the riders. He had to brake hard to avoid the incident.
"I didn't see that much. I just saw this man crossing the road and two riders on the tarmac," he said, raising questions about rider safety.
"Should riders have to worry about this? They should just have to ride. The only thing they think about in a TTT is to go as fast as possible, so we guide them from the team car and we hope everything will be safe, but this time it was not."
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