Stage 3: Monday 4th July
Today’s stage goes right through the hometown of FDJ boss Marc Madiot, a two time Paris-Roubaix winner who in his time also won the French national road race and cyclo-cross championships.
The country round here is rolling, with long straight roads that go straight up and down, so that from the summits you can see two-kilometre stretches in a glance. There will be few places to hide if you’re off the front and hoping for a sneaky stage win ahead of the sprinters.
Of course, everyone’s jumpy about crashes in the first week of the Tour, especially when there are bunch sprint finishes.
But crashes that the riders bring on themselves are one thing. The tragic death at this year’s Gent-Wevelgem of Antoine Demoitié has brought into the public spotlight an urgent concern for riders and their teams: the unacceptably long list in recent years of accidents caused by race vehicles.
While the UCI seems to be dithering about implementing rules regarding the numbers of vehicles, who should be allowed to pilot them and how they should be driven (see Suze Clemitson’s excellent piece on the subject in the Guardian), Marc Madiot, who is also the president of the French National Cycling League, recently made the following five suggestions to the French newspaper, Ouest France, for improving race safety:
1. Bikes are too light, and as a consequence, too fragile: “If you look carefully, you’ll notice on two out of every three crashes the bikes have been smashed into two or three pieces.” The arms race for ever-lighter bikes needs to be urgently addressed, according to Madiot.
2. Race vehicles are dangerously inappropriate. Madiot says the heavy, hard to manoeuvre Harley Davidson-style motorbikes he witnessed at this year’s Gent-Wevelgem have no place in a bike race. “It seems obvious to me that there should be a rule for smaller bikes that are easier to handle.” Madiot also calls for an immediate ban on tinted windows and excessively elevated cars which block visibility for “the rider who’s behind, the driver who doesn’t notice the rider who’s fallen in front of him or the other drivers following […] In short, they should bring back cars which riders can see over.”
3. Madiot pours scorn on race personnel with no understanding of cycling. He talks of dangerously placed barriers, or “clowns stopping any old place. Cancellara stops to take a piss? Five motorbikes skid to a halt and block the road. You can’t mess around like that.” Madiot argues that drivers should not only have a special licence, which the Tour already requires, but should also be, “former pros who can anticipate riders’ reactions.”
4. Madiot argues that the peloton is too large, and suggests reducing teams to 6 riders. “Riders’ average abilities are much higher than in the past. The guys are sparring, it’s more nervous. No one wants to give up their spot at the front and if there’s 200 of you, it quickly gets complicated.”
5. Madiot has been vocal in the past on the need to ban earpieces to make racing more exciting, but that doesn’t mean he wants to eliminate them completely. “I’d like to test an earpiece which would warn riders about obstacles or dangers up ahead. We have a problem: it’s impossible to stop the peloton quickly […] In the States, they can neutralise a car race within 500 metres. There are more deaths in cycling than in Formula 1.”
Stage 3: Monday 4th July