Tour de France: Orica-GreenEdge DS Matt White explains team bus mishap
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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tour de France: Orica-GreenEdge DS Matt White explains team bus mishap

by Kyle Moore at 1:30 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Team bus had come in after finish gantry had been lowered to stage finish position

Orica-GreenEdgeThe finish to stage one of the Tour de France was as hectic and unconventional as any in recent memory, due to a large crash inside the final five kilometres, and due to the Orica-GreenEdge team bus getting stuck under the gantry suspended over the finish line.

The signage at the finish line is reportedly kept at two different heights, depending on the situation of the race. Early in the stage, the gantry is kept at a higher level, in order to let the race caravan and team busses underneath. Prior to the riders arriving, the gantry is lowered. The Orica-GreenEdge bus was reported to have arrived at the finish line after it had been lowered.

According to the Australian team’s director Matt White, the team bus is the same bus the squad has always used – not a new one of an increased size. The Orica-GreenEdge driver was directed underneath the lowered gantry, resulting in the behemoth getting stuck.

With 15km to go, a bus stuck underneath the finish gantry, and riders speeding toward the road block, race organizers made the snap decision to shift the finish to what was marked as the three-kilometres to go banner. It was a necessary decision at the time – the other option being to neutralize everything - until the Orica-GreenEdge bus was moved out of the way just in time, and organizers moved the finish back to its original spot.

This resulted in some riders finding out about the shifting finish line, while others – including eventual stage winner Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) – being left in the dark completely as to the story that was rapidly developing.

Kittel would later tell reporters at the finish that he had no idea that anything was the matter in the race finale. Other riders, including several from Lotto-Belisol, indicated on Twitter after the race that they were frustrated as they learned mid-race of the quick finish line decisions being made.

Orica-GreenEdge and its bus driver were understandably upset to impact the finish in such a fashion, and it was up to team director Matt White to explain what happened in a team press release.

“Obviously, this was a really unfortunate situation. The bus was led under the finish gantry, and we took it for granted that there was enough clearance,” White explained. “We’ve had this bus since we started the team, and it’s the same bus we took to the Tour last year. Our bus driver was told to move forward and became lodged under the finish gantry. He followed all instructions in the process that followed thanks to the hard work by ASO that allowed him to remove the bus before the finish. It was the best possible outcome given the situation.”

“It was hectic there in the final. Over the radio, we received information that the finish line had been brought forward 3km due to the fact that our bus was still lodged under the finish line. The frantic efforts to clear the bus proved successful, and we had a few minutes notice that the finish line had been moved to its original place.”

Race organizers awarded everyone with the same time, given the circumstances, a decision that White agreed with.

“It’s always a fair decision to make if something completely outside the riders’ control impacts the race the way it did today. It was a very good decision, and it’s the safest thing for the riders,” White added.

As the bus situation was playing out, and the finish line was being shifted, a crash involving multiple sprinters and the riders around them had a significant impact on the result. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was held up, André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) suffered resulting mechanical trouble, and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) hit the ground hard, along with many others. Orica-GreenEdge sprinter Matt Goss escaped this crash, but suffered one of his own on the final straight.

“Gossy managed to escape the first crash, but he clipped the barriers and went down about 500m from the line,” White stated. “The bunch had spread quite wide, and he ran out of road. He lost a bit of skin, but he should be fine other than. Obviously he’s not happy about crashing on the first day of the Tour, but he wasn’t the only one.”

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