Finish of Étoile de Bessèges stage sparks safety concerns

Some fans and professionals took to Twitter to complain about the route and the placement of photographers after the finish line

(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

The relatively small French stage race of Étoile de Bessèges is getting a lot more attention from cycling fans this year as it is one of the few races going ahead during the early season.

This increased focus on the 2.1-ranked race has resulted increased scrutiny after stage two in the Gard départment of south east France.

A number of professional riders and fans aimed criticism at the placement of the race photographers after the finish line, who had been positioned close to the actual line, meaning the riders had to deviate immediately after finishing at high speed.

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British rider, Abby Mae Parkinson tweeted: "Press taking up half the road right after the line. What catastrophic accident has to take place before change happens?!"

Parkinson shared pictures of the finish and European champion, Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos), swerving to avoid crashing.

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This came just moments after a huge crash on the exit of the final roundabout, which was placed at about 400 metres from the finish line, bringing down several sprinters including Edvald Boasson Hagen (Total Direct Energie) and Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix).

There we a few other crashes earlier in the race that saw the likes of Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) hit the deck as well before the race headed into a series of very narrow village streets that had a multitude of hazards.

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They included a bin that was partially in the road, a pedestrian crossing fence that was not padded, as well as a spectator stretching out his feet onto the course, pulling them back just before the peloton flew through.

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But some have pointed out the relatively small size of the race, which relies on the help of volunteers, as pointed out by cycling writer, Peter Cossins.

Cossins said: "Lots of people knocking the [Étoile de] Bessèges race organisation after the stage today. Worth remembering that this race had just three WorldTour teams last year and has 11 this, and is operating on a shoestring, dependent on the goodwill of volunteers. It needs building up, not knocking down."

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This is the second French race in a week to be criticised due to its photographer placement with GP La Marseillaise being the other.

In that it was the winner, Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Ag2r-Citroën) had to swerve into Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), almost causing a crash.

Cycling Weekly has approached the organisers of Étoile de Bessèges for comment.

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Tim Bonville-Ginn

Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!

I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.

It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.

After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.

When not writing stories for the site, I don't really switch off my cycling side as I watch every race that is televised as well as being a rider myself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager. Maybe too regular.

My bike is a well used Specialized Tarmac SL4 when out on my local roads back in West Yorkshire as well as in northern Hampshire with the hills and mountains being my preferred terrain.