With 100km to go in stage four, the main highlights of the itinerary of the stage from Seraing to Namur are yet to come. There’s been one sector of pavé but the peloton has passed it by without any drama. The major cobbled roads are yet to come and some riders have admitted that their intention is to stay with the peloton until the rough stuff and then switch to survival mode. This is, at least, the plan for Michael Matthews, the last rider on GC who sustained some nasty injuries in the crash yesterday.
RIDE caught up with some member of the Orica-GreenEdge team and its entourage before the start of stage four.
Neil Stephens: “I basically dedicated myself to getting rid of the trashed bikes”
I’m at the Orica-GreenEdge bus on the morning of stage four and I’m having a chat to the star of YouTube – a worldwide sensation, Neil Stephens [who was seen often in the footage after the crash in stage three]. That’s an amazing bit of footage from yesterday’s stage…
“Yeah. It’s just a bit of an idea Dan Jones came up with putting the [GoPro camera] jacket on the mechanic. It had a couple of teething problems the first couple of days because, you know, the mechanics had to remember to turn it on and take videos instead of photos. It ended up that it just happened to be on when he came out yesterday and everyone saw the dramatic footage that was taken.”
People understand that it gets a bit crazy in the convoy and they realise that when there’s a crash it’s a bit of mayhem, but yesterday’s was exceptional wasn’t it?
“Yeah. When you get to talk to the mechanics it’s a really difficult part of their job. Sometimes they run off to the crash to change the bike, but they don’t only change the bike as you saw on the video. He’s checked-out the security of the helmets, getting bikes going…
“At the same time he does their first assessment medically I suppose. He comes back and says, you know, like, ‘This rider’s bad,’ or, ‘This rider’s okay,’ or, ‘He looks like he’ll be able to get going again…’ And then sometimes they seem some pretty shocking situations and they’ve got to deal with that as well.
“So they go above and beyond their role and we saw a bit of that yesterday. There were actually parts of that you sort of saw when he’s talking to the bike riders, then talking to me in Spanish, then the other mechanic in French. Working out who’s bike was where, getting things up and going. Making sure they get back on the road, but back on the road in the right direction. Their helmets are right, their bikes are going to work right, and their spare bikes are also going to work right as well.”
Like when Daryl is asking for the bidons. You’re all set to go, we’ve arranged the bike and he says, “Don’t forget the drink bottles.” Little details, because everything has to be thought about doesn’t it?
“Yeah. And you saw how was pretty well in control – I was the one out of control in the footage because I was trying to help the mechanics, I could see they were under the pump. But I didn’t know whose bike was where and so I basically dedicated myself to getting rid of the trashed bikes, getting them into the voiture balai (broom wagon, the car that follows the race picking up bits and pieces – broken bikes and broken riders)…
“Luckily for us – and lucky for the peloton – there was no ambulance, behind the peloton (or riders who had escaped the mishap) and so it was a really unsafe situation. So they cancelled the race, waited for everyone to get up and going again which allowed us a good six and a half or seven minutes to get everyone back and going again.”
When Christian Prudhomme was originally seen neutralising the stage there was a little bit of confusion as to what was going on. Obviously we understand the rules and they later issued a press release stating which regulation it was that allowed them to do that. Does that happen often?
“I’ve never seen it happen in that situation. And it is true, there was a bit of confusion. All they needed to say was, ‘The race is being suspended or stopped because of safety reasons.’ That was the confusion. That was what led to people, unfortunately, making decisions and saying, ‘Why are we going to stop? Why can’t we keep on going? Why this? Why that?’ No, listen: it’s about safety! There were 120 riders, I believe, in the peloton with no doctors and no ambulance. That can’t happen.
“So if we go back to basics, that was why the race was suspended. Not because of who crashed, or what happened, or what was going on. No. It wasn’t safe and we have to think about that in every aspect of life, you know? Safety first and then the sport comes after that.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold
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