Bahrain Victorious has pledged to "stand by" Fred Wright after Primož Roglič and his Jumbo-Visma team publicly blamed him for the crash that ended the Slovenian’s Vuelta a España challenge.
The Slovenian rider had sat second overall in the Spanish Grand Tour prior to the incident, which saw him sent flying to the ground after a late collision with Wright on stage 16.
On Friday an article appeared on the official website of the Dutch team in which Roglič directly called out Fred Wright, laying the blame firmly at the British riders door for the incident. In the piece the three-time Vuelta winner attributed his fall to Wright’s actions in the sprint.
He said: “Not everyone saw it correctly. The crash was not caused by a bad road or a lack of safety but by a rider's behaviour. I don't have eyes on my back. Otherwise, I would have run wide. Wright came from behind and rode the handlebars out of my hands before I knew it."
In the run into the line on stage 16, the Slovenian dramatically swung from his line on the front of the select group along with eventual stage winner Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo). The Jumbo-Visma rider eventually moved back into position clashing handlebars with Wright as they both sprinted for the stage win.
He added: "This was not okay. This shouldn't happen. People move on swiftly as if nothing happened. For me, that doesn't apply. This is not the way I want the sport to continue and I want to make that clear.”
Later this evening Bahrain responded with a statement of its own saying it stood by the 23-year-old Briton.
It said: “Unfortunately crashes are a part of our sport and this isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, even though riders do their best to avoid them. The race footage supports this: our rider does not deviate from his racing line before the incident.
“We also believe that if a team has certain feelings about an incident on the road, the place to take those up is with the commissaires after the stage rather than a statement online some days later.”
Wright himself added: “I don’t think the statement is fair to be honest, as the footage shows it was a simple racing incident, but I also appreciate that Primož was challenging for the red jersey here at La Vuelta. And of course I did send him a private message after the stage to see if he was ok.”
The Londoners team said that statements like the Jumbo one "lead to vitriol and hate" towards riders in the public eye and to see another squad make them was "most disappointing".
It added: "Fred is kind, generous, and incredibly talented. He does not deserve the comments or sentiments that have been directed towards him in recent days."
In the Jumbo-Visma piece Roglič explained that he is now feeling “slightly better” after the incident but was unsure as to whether he can continue racing this year.
He said: “I can walk a little bit. I am happy with that for the moment. After the crash, it took me time to straighten things out. I asked myself: how can this be? My conclusion is that the way this crash happened is unacceptable.
Neither Bahrain nor Wright addressed directly the somewhat bizarre way the Jumbo-Visma article had linked the crash suffered by their rider to the wide issue of rider safety. In it team manager Richard Plugge even went as far as to compare the crash to the horrific incident at the 2019 Tour de Pologne between Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider Fabio Jakobsen and Dylan Groenewegen.
Plugge said: “Research has been done into numerous racing incidents. They have been mapped out in a database. The causes were categorised. Obstacles, for example. As well as 'rider's own fault' or 'other rider's fault'. We are right to talk about unsafe spots in a course, such as the threshold in Burgos. However, research shows that the riders' cycling behaviour is to blame for a crash in about half the cases. Not braking, but pushing through, for example.”
“It doesn't surprise me because every rider has the will to win. I would like to say: brake and use your brains. It requires a change of behaviour, driven by awareness and consistent judging.
Plugge then continued to explain that he was glad the Slovenian was “speaking out” and “naming the behaviour of riders as well”.
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