The fifth stage of the Tour de France on the narrow, wind-swept roads of Brittany proved to be the most crash-marred stage thus far with no less than five serious accidents wreaking havoc on the peloton. Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack) abandoned the race after his crash, Nicki Sörensen (Saxo Bank Sungard) was taken out by a motorbike and top riders like Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Tom Boonen (Quickstep) are licking their wounds as well.
Course director Jean-François Pescheux, from race organizer ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation), said that the peloton's nervousness caused the problems.
"It's the nervousness which reigns in the peloton," said Pescheux. "For the green jersey the leaders are separated from each other by only a few points and for the yellow jersey it's a matter of seconds. If the riders would be at three minutes in the general classification they would not ride like this.
"Everybody was afraid of this stage because there was wind as we were close to the sea. They rode fast on a course with a lot of corners. The biggest crash occurred right after the [intermediate] sprint. It could've been some sort of decompression. The crash with Boonen happened in the middle of the peloton so maybe there was less vigilance as during previous days as we're already in stage five.
"It's part of the Tour de France as there have always been crashes in the past as well. Today was remarkable in that several favourites were among the victims. It's typical for the first week in the Tour in which everybody wants to ride near the front. If there would be a major climb there would have been no such crashes. Everybody is waiting for the big climbs to avoid this. Everybody knew that echelons could be formed after every corner. The Pont de Saint-Nazaire was a major warning so everybody was vigilant and nervous."
Regarding the spectacular crash of Nicki Sörensen, who was clipped by a a motorbike and had his bike dragged down the road, Pescheux played down the logical reaction that there are too many motorbikes in the race.
"There are not too many motorbikes. It's hard to reduce the number of motorbikes. The problem is that the motorbikes try to overtake the peloton while it is nervous and spread out over the width of the road.
"People have a hard time understanding that riders don't want to lose their spot. If they lose a meter they have to work hard for ten meters. It's hard to regain your spot. The motorbikes have to overtake the peloton to do their work. This particular motorbike tried to overtake the peloton but he ended up off the road between the spectators.
"We saw riders passing through and then we found a racing bike a hundred metres further up the road so the bike must've been hooked on the motorbike. They have to do their work, but the priority is that the riders can do their work. Everybody has to help each other but sometimes it doesn't work out. We'll look into how we can sanction this," Pescheux said.
Soon afterwards it was announced that the moto driver, who was piloting a photographer from Getty Images, was banned from the rest of the Tour de France.
The driver explained to Cyclingnews that he wasn't consulted regarding the incident. "There were four motorbikes who wanted to pass the peloton. Contador was back in the peloton and the first motorbike slowed down to take photos which is not allowed. Through the radio Mr. Pescheux told us that we had to drop back. I pulled over to the right hand side of the road and didn't move from that line. Suddenly I heard that noise," the driver said, referring to the bike that clung to his motorbike.
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