After a hard day of climbing more than 3,400 metres during the Tour of Utah's Queen stage, Tao Geoghegan Hart, with both shoulders scuffed and dirty, had one more battle to fight in the parking lot after the stage finished at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.
The Axeon Hagens Berman rider approached TV Moto bike 2 and had several choice words for the driver and cameraman, who crashed in front of Geoghegan Hart in the final 5km of the stage.
"It took me out halfway up the climb," an obviously agitated Geoghegan Hart told Cyclingnews after his encounter in the parking lot. "It's ridiculous. Last year my flippin' friend almost died in this race because they can't control their convoy.
"It's absolutely ridiculous. The motorbike crashed off the road. They have one job, and it's not to film the race, it's to be safe. It's not for them, though, it's obviously not. I think I was the worst, but two or three guys [went down] I think."
In a statement released later by the team, Geoghegan Hart further explained what happened.
"The TV motorbike crashed off the road and it was on the wrong side of the group when it did," Geogheagn Hart said in the team release. "We were pinned to the left with the crosswind and I was riding sixth or seventh wheel at the time. I was right next to the moto when they fell so they fell to the right and took me down.
"I fell on my face and my shoulder. I lost 20 or 30 seconds before I could get up and clip back in. Then, I was on my own on the climb and it is impossible to chase back on a climb like that, especially into a headwind."
Video that race organisers showed Cyclingnews showed Geoghegan Hart and a BMC rider having to take evasive action, but it did not appear that either rider hit the ground. It was not clear whether either of the riders made contact with the moto, the cameraman or the pilot.
The TV 2 moto pilot told Cyclingnews the riders had pinched them to the side of the road, and the edge of the pavement crumbled away underneath them, causing them to go down.
Geoghegan Hart's teammate, third-placed Adrien Costa, said he was in front of the crash but heard it all happen behind him.
"We were all kind of in the gutter on the climb because there was a slight crosswind," Costa said in the post-race press conference.
"I could feel the motorbike approaching on my left for some reason when we're all already on the left, and I just hear a crash sort of noise, and then on the radio I hear Tao saying he got taken out by a motorbike," Costa continued. "It's pretty frustrating that would happen. If it's a technical run-in or something that's one thing, but on a climb when there's tons of room on the right, it's definitely kind of a bummer for him."
Lupus Racing's Chris Horner, who also witnessed the crash, said the moto incident caused the split among the leaders that saw a group of 11 go up the road.
"He was right on the edge, and they had a little lip there," Horner told Cyclingnews. "He caught the lip and slipped down to the next lip. It was about an inch and so that brought him down to the next big one, and the suitcase on the side caught the street, they stopped and flipped over and two riders slightly tangled up.
"OK, if you were going to win it's not enough to stop you from winning, but if you're on the limit you weren't gonna to come back," Horner said. "That's where the split came right then. Cunego was behind the motorcycle, then Janez Brajkovic. We came around and Janez tired to close it and then blew. Then Cunego went steady but we could never close it again. We got close, but … I wasn't gonna win anyways."
Race organisers partially disputed Geoghegan Hart's description of the incident, however, saying none of the riders affected actually hit the ground or made contact with the motorcycle or its pilot and cameraman. Rather, they were forced to take evasive action, according to race organisers
"The UCI has reviewed video of the incident and made a determination of what occurred on the roadway," said Tour of Utah spokesman Frank Zang. "Appropriate action has been taken, which race organisers have agreed with."
In the race communique released by the UCI officials after the stage, TV moto 2 was fined $1,000.
"First and foremost safety is always extremely important to us when it comes to race operations and logistics," Zang said. "We take this role incredibly seriously in our preparations and throughout every moment of the race.
"In this particular incident, the TV moto got pinched on the far left side of the road as the riders were making the final climb," Zang said. "The TV moto hit loose asphalt on the edge of the road, which caused the wheel to slip out. The pilot and the passenger fell off the moto onto the road surface. Two riders had to take evasive actions. The riders had to stop, they put their feet down and they were able to resume the climb. There was no contact between the riders and the TV Moto. The riders had to take evasive action, but there was no contact between the two."
Tour of Utah - Stage 6 Video Highlights
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.
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