The Tinkoff-Saxo team has announced that Peter Sagan has been forced to abandon the Vuelta a Espana because of the injuries he incurred in the final kilometres of Saturday’s eighth stage, when he was apparently hit by a Shimano neutral service motorbike.
The team claims Sagan suffered wounds and burns of first and second degree on the left side of his body, from the hip to the lower leg. He also has a contusion on his left forearm with an intra-muscular hematoma. The Tinkoff-Saxo staff decided that Sagan couldn’t safely continue the race with the injuries he suffered and will head home today.
Sagan was apparently hit by the motorbike with less than 10 kilometres to go in the stage. The Vuelta a Espana organisation later confirmed that the pilot of the motorbike responsible for the crash has been excluded from the rest of the race “for overtaking a group and provoking the crash of the rider Peter Sagan.” They also apologized for the incident.
Sagan’s fury was clear after the crash as he lashing out at race vehicles. His shorts ripped to shreds, revealing his injuries the Tinkoff-Saxo rider punched the medical car, gestured vehemently at the race motorbike, then appeared to kick his own bike. Later television images showed the 25-year-old back on the bike but dropped from the front group. He finished the stage five minutes down and was later fined for venting his anger.
The Tinkoff-Saxo team announced it is considering legal action ‘against the person or persons responsible for crashing into Peter Sagan’.
“Unfortunately, it isn't the first time such an incident happens," Sagan said in a team press release after the accident. "Even if motorbikes are forced to go through a group of riders, they should do it very carefully and not recklessly. In my opinion, motorbike drivers don't take the safety of the riders in consideration seriously. Fortunately, my injuries aren't very serious but can you imagine what would have happened if he had ran over me?"
The motorcycle involved belonged to the Shimano neutral support team - one whose reputation was sullied when a support car knocked Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing) down when he was part of a breakaway in the Tour of Flanders. However on Sunday Shimano claimed that the motorbike pilot was provided by the Vuelta organisation and not part of the Shimano neutral support team.
“If I had crashed alone or with another rider, I would have considered that to be part of the sport. However, being hit by a motorbike of the race organization shouldn't be acceptable. The safety of the riders should be an absolute priority and all vehicle drivers involved in a race must be more attentive. I really hope this incident is the start of a series of necessary changes in the way races are organized."
“I didn't even hear the motorbike coming. I find it unacceptable that a motorbike tries to weave its way into the group at such high speed. They accelerate and try to sneak in when they see an empty space. However, they don’t take into consideration that a rider might fall in front of them or change direction. They go extremely fast and the difference of speed compared to the riders is enormous”.
“Last but not least, I go back to the team hotel and I read I was fined 300 francs for insults and threats as well as behaviour that damages the image of cycling. I will, obviously, pay it but I consider it unjust.”
Rafa Majka remains as Tinkoff-Saxo’s sole team leader at the Vuelta a Espana.
Sagan is expected to head home to Monaco to recover from the incident but is still expected to be a contender at the World road race championships in the USA at the end of the month.