Riders and organisers alike are seething after a chaotic finish to the opening stage of the annual cycling competition in France.
Australia’s Tour de France Orica-GreenEdge team was left red-faced when their team bus became wedged under the arch of the finish line for Saturday’s initial 213-kilometre ride.
The fist stage ever to be held on the Mediterranean island of Corsica off the southern-French coast saw the peleoton flying along narrow roads for the last 20 kilometres leading to the Bastia finish.
Confusion was caused after the Australian team’s bus became stuck under the gantry of the finish line as riders prepared for the last 5-kilometre sprint, a debacle that sent the French organisers into chaos.
Unable to move the vehicle either way, they initially faced the tough decision of moving the finish line 3 kilometres forward. However frantic efforts to move the bus eventually proved successful.
Unfortunately, the changes meant cyclists, who were notified of the last minute amendment over the radio, were only given a few minutes notice that the finish line had in fact resumed to its original location.
A massive crash ensued and saw a whole host of riders including a two-time Tour winner, a former world-time trial champ and last year’s green jersey winner go down only a few kilometres from the finish.
Many blamed the carnage on the indecisive finish which ‘caught-out’ even the most experienced riders.
Caught on camera with his head in his hands, Garikoitz Atxa, a Spanish former cyclist, was on his first day working as the Orica team’s bus driver.
“I don’t know whether I’m famous or infamous. I’m feeling terrible but it’s all over and there was nobody injured in the finish,” Axta told Eurosports News.
“This was my first day driving the bus so it’s not a good start but I hope they have faith in me. I tried to sleep but I had a lot on my mind and I hope today will go OK.
“The team were kind and sympathetic and I’m grateful for all the nice things they said, and what else can I say but I’m sorry,” he added.
Disgruntled organisers fined the Australian team 2000 Swiss Francs (AUS$2,290) for “not respecting the timetable put in place for auxiliary team vehicles arriving at the stage finish.’