Photographer who blocked Tadej Pogačar's attack at Tour de France apologises

L'Équipe photographer and driver, and France Télévisions cameraman and driver, suspended for one stage after actions on Col de Joux Plane

Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar on stage 14 of the Tour de France
(Image credit: Bernard Papon/AFP/Getty Images)

The photographer who was partly responsible for blocking Tadej Pogačar's attack on stage 14 of the Tour de France has apologised, saying it was "indefensible".

Nearing the top of the Col de Joux Plane, race leader Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) were together, the former having caught his rival after an earlier attack. With bonus seconds available at the summit, the race to the line was crucial for the overall standings at the race. The road was hemmed in with spectators, with there barely any room for either rider to get past.

With 500m to go, Pogačar launched a stinging attack, but soon had to abort it, with the speed bringing him straight behind two in-race motorbikes covering the action, meaning he could not escape. With Vingegaard then behind Pogačar, the Dane was able to launch his own attack to the top of the climb, netting him the maximum bonus seconds.

On Saturday night, the race jury said that there had been a "violation of traffic regulations or directives vehicles in the race (non-compliance with the press specifications before the Col de Joux Plane bonus sprint)."

As a result, the drivers and the passengers - a photographer from L'Équipe and a cameraman from France Télévisions - were fined 500 CHF and suspended from Sunday's stage 15.

The photographer, Bernard Papon, told L'Equipe that it was a "tricky situation" but that he was sorry to Pogačar for affecting the race.

"When I saw that Pogačar was attacking, I told my driver who told me that he simply can't take off," Papon said. "When he came up to us, we found ourselves in a tricky situation. The crowd was so thick that you have to make a choice in the heat of the moment – interrupt the rider's effort or fall in with the crowd and hurt people.

"I'm not going to defend the indefensible – you shouldn't find yourself in this kind of situation. I should have asked my driver to get going faster and earlier. Next time I'll speed up and not take the photo, too bad. The rules are all there for this situation. We made a mistake and I'm very sorry for Tadej Pogačar and for the show."

Post-stage, Pogačar said that the aborted sprint was a "wasted bullet". He ended the day an extra second behind Vingegaard.

“It’s a shame [as] I think my first sprint was for nothing,” Pogačar said. “That’s a pity. But it wouldn’t have changed the outcome I don’t think.

“I still felt that I lose effort in my legs because I could no longer sprint for the bonus. I screwed that up. But it is what it is.”

Joxean Fernández Matxín, the manager of UAE-Team Emirates, was also annoyed by the motorbikes. “It’s circumstances [that happen but] the rules from the UCI are that the car has to be 25m ahead. Being two metres in front is unacceptable. 

“In this moment there were a lot of public and many times the motor protects the rider but from a distance… but this is cycling, this is life, we continue with the same ambition tomorrow.”

Thank you for reading 20 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

Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.