Are the Tour de France’s descents too risky?

The Tour de France is too risky according to overall favourites, Fränk and Andy Schleck. They complained today at the finish in Pinerolo, Italy, about the closing descents of the last two stages.

“Once again it’s dangerous,” said Andy Schleck. “It’s not really necessary to put a downhill like that again today.”

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Schleck talked to Cycling Weekly outside the Leopard-Trek team bus in Pinerolo, west of Turin. He just finished the 17th stage of the Tour, the second consecutive one with a downhill finish.

He lost 1-09 minutes in Gap yesterday to defending champion Alberto Contador and nearly lost time again on the descent of the Pramartino today. Contador attacked repeatedly on the Pramartino climb and moved free on the descent.

Riders crashed on the descent yesterday and today. Today, overall leader Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) overshot a corner and Jonathan Hivert (Saur-Sojasun) lost control of his bike three times.

Frenchman Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ) crashed near the same point on the Col de Manse yesterday where Joseba Beloki suffered a career-ending crash in 2003. Lance Armstrong survived by famously riding through an open field.

“Everyone has families at home,” Andy Schleck told Cycling Weekly yesterday. “A finish like this should not be allowed.”

Leopard lost its rider Wouter Weylandt in a crash during the Giro d’Italia on May 9. He crashed on a descent to Rapallo, hit his head and died.

The Giro d’Italia, partly due to concerns over another incident, cancelled the Monte Crostis descent later in race.

Cycling Weekly asked Leopard-Trek’s team manager, Kim Andersen if his team planned to complain to Tour organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO).

“I don’t know,” Andersen said.

“When we are behind in the team car, we are too far away and our riders can lose the race because we can’t reach them in time. It’s not fair.”

Leopard’s press officer later confirmed that the team would not lodge an official complaint. 

Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen attacked on the climb and rode the descent solo to win today. He had reconnoitred the climb and descent after the Critérium du Dauphiné in June.

“At the end of the day, everybody has known for nearly a year that that was there,” Sky’s team principal, David Brailsford told Cycling Weekly. “If you’re worried about it, get out there and go up and down it a few times to make it safe. That’s what we did and that’s why he was so confident.”

The Schleck brothers previewed the descent twice during a May training camp. Riis confirmed to Cycling Weekly that Contador had also previewed this stage and the upcoming Alpine days.

Tour de France 2011: Related links

Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

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