By Jonny Long
Deceuninck - Quick-Step's Iljo Keisse has said the two most recent sprint stages of the 2021Giro d'Italia have been "a complete disaster" in terms of safety.
Speaking in his Het Nieuwsblad column, the Belgian said the safety of the flat stages at this year's Italian Grand Tour have been no laughing matter, following a couple of incidents during the first week of racing.
Stage five saw Mikel Landa crash and abandon after hitting a race official stood in front of a traffic island, an incident that also involved stage four winner Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates), who then failed to start stage six.
"I'll tell it like it is: the last two sprint stages in this Giro have been a complete disaster. On the way to Termoli [stage seven] we rode all day on relatively wide roads until it all changed in the last 10km. Narrow roads, islands of traffic in the middle of the road, roundabouts that are closed on one side and six bends in the last 1.5km," Keisse said.
"Wednesday's ride to Cattolica was even worse. Actually it's not to be laughed about. The peloton is passing on the complaints to the CPA union, they are our voice in the safety debate."
On Thursday's stage six, Keisse's team-mate Pieter Serry was involved in a worrying incident where the Team BikeExchange team car drove into the back of him during the race. Serry thankfully escaped uninjured, the driver of the car thrown off the race.
"As a squad we have to count our blessings. Everyone came out of that hectic first week more or less unscathed. Pieter Serry was hit by a Team BikeExchange chase car, but not badly," Keisse said.
"What happened there is a consequence of the new regulations on 'litter zones'. In the past, riders used to throw away their rainjackets where it suited them, only to radio the location to the support vehicle. They then picked it up again. Now the same applies to rainjackets as to water bottles: you cannot throw them away anymore. Riders simply hand them over to the nearest car in the race, sometimes even to the jury. BikeExchange went to pick up a jacket from one of their riders in their car on Thursday, but when handing it over, the driver lost sight of the road. That's how they hit Pieter.
"That he was not seriously injured is a small miracle, but the biggest miracle occurred on Wednesday, already on the way to Cattolica. Velon distributed onboard images of Mikel Landa's crash. It shows our team riding alongside him. More or less everyone was riding together at that point, as more and more teams are doing. I had Rémi Cavagna in front of me and Remco, Fausto Masnada and James Knox behind me. If one of us had caught up with Landa, it would have been one big blue mess. The first week of racing has now gone almost flawlessly for us, but it depends on millimetres."
Deceuninck - Quick-Step will now look to support Remco Evenepoel in the general classification, the young Belgian's form remaining intact after his lay-off with injury, finding himself only 11 seconds off race leader Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ).
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