At least the rain had stopped by the time Pieter Serry (Deceuninck-QuickStep) reached the top of the climb to San Giacomo at the end of stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia, but it was hard to be grateful for small mercies on a day like this.
Serry’s back was aching even more than his legs, and he was cold and tired after a demanding trek through the Apennines. Small wonder he winced when he saw a group of reporters edge into his path past the finish line, but he braked to a halt to give an obvious answer to an obvious question. “I crashed. The car went into the back of me,” he said.
A little over 10 kilometres from the summit, Serry had drifted to the back of the group of favourites when he felt something bump against his rear wheel and suddenly found himself lying beneath his bike on the tarmac.
As he was helped up by a Team BikeExchange mechanic, Serry realised that he had been brought down by the Australian squad’s team car. After making his way gingerly to his feet, Serry issued an understandably full-throated admonishment to the inattentive driver and then got back on his bike to complete the stage.
After the stage, the commissaires expelled Team BikeExchange directeur sportif Gene Bates from the Giro, while his passenger Matt White was fined 2,000 CHF. The crash took place just as the BikeExchange car was drawing up alongside the race commissaire, seemingly to collect a jacket that had been deposited by one of their riders earlier on the stage.
It was the second time this season that a race vehicle had caused Serry to crash. He had to abandon the Volta a Catalunya in March when he was struck by a motorbike just kilometres into the opening stage in Calella.
“It’s a really sad feeling because one month ago in Catalunya I had the same with a motorbike,” Serry said before riding off back down to the mountain towards his team bus. “My back really hurts and I was a bit emotional.”
In the mixed zone behind the podium, Giro director Mauro Vegni struck a diplomatic note, expressing regret that the crash had taken place but opting not to condemn the driver for his moment of distraction.
“It’s the job of the commissaires to decide whether there should be a sanction or not,” Vegni told Cyclingnews. “But I’ve said before that cycling has become such a difficult sport, where in every moment you have to stay concentrated on everything. Riders can make mistakes, the organisation can make mistakes and so can the people driving team cars. It’s a pity but it’s not something we’ve discovered today. I’ve been doing this job for 45 years and in these 45 years I’ve seen a lot of things.”
Serry’s crash came just 24 hours after Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) were forced to abandon the Giro after they crashed into a marshal who was signalling a traffic island on the fraught run-in to Cattolica on stage 5.
Landa’s teammate Matej Mohorič was the MVP of Thursday’s stage, teeing up Gino Mäder for victory from the early break, but the Slovenian revisited his leaders crash when spoke to reporters at the finish in San Giacomo.
“We have serious problems with security, we saw that yesterday with Mikel. We can’t go on like this, we need to talk about it,” Mohorič said. “Having sprint stages on finishes like the one we had yesterday is like driving Formula 1 cars on a go-karting circuit.
"Either we have finishes on wide-open roads without traffic islands, or we have a rule that neutralises the race with 10km to go, so the sprinters can do their own race with maybe 30 riders, leaving more space for them and more calm for everyone else.”
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