Team BikeExchange (opens in new tab) sports director Gene Bates has been thrown out of the Giro d’Italia (opens in new tab) 2021 after hitting Pieter Serry with his team car on the final climb of stage six.
Serry (Deceuninck - Quick-Step (opens in new tab)) seemed to be okay after a pretty heavy impact but he was understandably furious with Bates who, from what we saw from the helicopter shot, was quick to apologise to the Belgian veteran as the BikeExchange mechanic sorted out his bike.
Later that evening, BikeExchange tweeted that Bates had spoken to Serry and apologised before leaving the race with both teams posting their relief that Serry finished the stage and that he was okay.
Matt White, who was the passenger in the car, was fined 2000 CHF after the stage, which is just over £1500.
White spoke to Eurosport GCN before the start of stage seven: “We take responsibility for the action that we made. It was an unfortunate accident, but the best thing is that Pieter Serry didn’t get injured and Gene Bates, our sports director rang him personally and they had a good discussion and there’s no bad blood between the two teams.
“We’re doing this every day for 250 days a year and it's very tight driving. A lot of people in the cars are very good drivers. This is our job. We’re doing it 10 months of the year and it was an unfortunate accident.
“The main thing is that Pieter Serry is fine. The unfortunate thing for us is we’ve lost our sports director for the rest of the race, which I personally think is a very harsh penalty for an accident where no-one was injured. That’s it. It was an accident.”
The crash took place in the closing stages of the sixth stage with Serry dropping out of the peloton after doing his job for his team leader, Remco Evenepoel. But the BikeExchange car was driving alongside the commissaire's car as the race officials were handing team jackets back to the team car as riders will have given them to the officials instead of throwing them to the side of the road.
This was all taking place while cars were still driving and clearly not concentrating on the road when Bates drove into the back wheel of Serry. The Belgian rider then landed on the bonnet of the car before hitting his backside on the road.
This isn’t the first time Serry has been knocked off his bike by a vehicle in a race convoy this season as he was hit by a motorbike on the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya to Calella.
Serry recalled this after finishing stage six of the Giro: “It’s a really sad feeling because one month ago in Catalunya I had the same with a motorbike - my back really hurts and I was a bit emotional.”
Race director of the Giro d’Italia told CyclingNews (opens in new tab): “It’s the job of the commissaire's to decide whether there should be a sanction or not. But I’ve said before that cycling has become such a difficult sport, wherein every moment you have to stay concentrated on everything.
“Riders can make mistakes, the organisation can make mistakes and so can the people driving team cars. It’s a pity but it’s not something we’ve discovered today. I’ve been doing this job for 45 years and in these 45 years I’ve seen a lot of things.”
Deceuninck - Quick-Step raced on and managed a fourth place on the day with Evenepoel looking very strong in the main favourites' group whereas BikeExchange’s leader, Simon Yates lost a little bit more time but moved himself to 10th overall after suffering in the cold, just under a minute down on the overall leader, Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ).
The seventh stage is another day for the fast men with the sprint teams expected to control before yet another day for the general classification as the first week comes to a close.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1