By Jonny Long
The breathtaking start to the 2021 Tour de France continued on stage three, but unlike Mathieu van der Poel's heroics yesterday, it was back to the original recipe from stage one, with sprinting stars and GC favourites brought down on another day that was defined by its crashes.
Groupama-FDJ boss Marc Madiot was his usual apoplectic self, a white-haired ball of indignation and rage outside the team bus after the stage, his sprinter Arnaud Démare unable to contend the sprint finish after being caught up.
"We cannot continue like this. There will be kids, fathers, mothers watching today and they won't want their children doing this sport. We've got to change this because we can't keep doing this in this way," he said.
First, Geraint Thomas came down hard, clutching his shoulder, the peloton soon five minutes up the road, before the Welshman remounted and made it back up, eventually finishing alongside Tadej Pogačar.
Then, inside the final 10km, Primož Roglič came down, wounds on his left-hand side very visible after hitting the tarmac hard, taken to hospital after the finish for checks on his tailbone. Next up was Bahrain-Victorious' Jack Haig, who didn't look in a good way after a crash around a bend, laid up against a grassy verge. And then there was the sprint finale.
Around the final bend, 150m from the finish, Caleb Ewan's wheel touched Tim Merlier's, the Belgian sprinting to the stage victory and the Australian left in a heap on the floor alongside Peter Sagan and the Lotto-Soudal rider later leaving the course in an ambulance.
"It's not the route organiser's fault, it's everybody's fault: the organisers, the teams, the riders, the international federations," Madiot continued.
"We need to get together and sort something out, it's just talking all the time and nothing has been done.
"I don't want to be in the situation where I have to phone up a rider's parents and say their son is in the hospital."
Earlier in the day, Jumbo-Visma had apparently asked for the race to be neutralised from 8km out instead of the usual 3km, given how technical the finish was. The request was not approved.
"It’s always difficult to say or have an opinion, we’ve already had a lot of finals where guys crash, maybe the 8km point today was more for GC riders would have made a difference but also you then move the problem up to that 8km mark," said Mathieu van der Poel, the yellow jersey giving his verdict. "We race on open roads, we don’t always know what’s coming and the speed is so high these days it can be dangerous.
"For sure the last 10km was a bit fast and stretched out but you also see crashes on straight roads. It’s also the riders who crash but for sure it’s a dangerous sport. You see how many guys crashed today."
EF Education-Nippo boss Jonathan Vaughters said the Tour is the "only race of the year where no-one uses their brakes," adding that last year saw an exceptionally safe race and this year is "back to normal".
"There will always be the same debate every week about safety and that," added Mark Cavendish. "I think the course and [those] things are [to be decided by] powers above us but I think the riders have as much responsibility to make it as safe as the course can [be made]."
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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