Sunday 30 June 2013

My moment of the week - 9


So you wait ages for a bus and then one (hopefully only 1, and not 3) comes, then at once spoils your party!

Oh dear, this wasn't exactly the dream start for the 100th edition of this year's Tour de France!

It does happen sometimes that a lorry gets stuck in the Blackwall Tunnel in London and causes chaos to traffic in East London. So sure he gets a fine and a reprimand, but at least he remains relatively anonymous and he hasn't got the world's media watching him. He doesn't even trigger any accident or a war of words.

Sadly, it wasn't the case for bus driver Gary Atxa who was just driving the Orica-Greenedge team bus and following instructions, when suddenly his vehicle got stuck under the finish banner.

Gary had had to drop off some VIPs at their team hotel en route from Porto Vecchio to the stage one finish town at Bastia, and consequently arrived late. The Tour de France organisers gave him clearance to drive up through the finish straight, but they did not check that his bus had clearance to get under the gantry! 

It must have been a perplexing sight for event officials - a bus stuck under the gantry right on the finish line with a fast approaching peloton of cyclists sprinting at over 50km/h.
Fortunately, the tyres of the bus were deflated and the bus was eventually moved out of the way in time for riders to safely contest the sprint for the line.

Unfortunately, this incident did not fail to leave a trail of confusion in its wake - organisers giving mixed instructions about where the finish line of the race would be - 3km early or at the original finish line? Team directors facing a conundrum about when to organise their teams for the final sprint for the "finish line", wherever that would be; riders waiting eagerly for instructions through their earpieces - then crash! A massive pile-up near the finish line, instantly ousted most of the key players for the sprint out of contention for the first "maillot jaune" of the most famous cycle race in the world.

An extremely angry Team Director from Francaise des Jeux, Marc Madiot lambasted the race judges on camera, while the judges themselves actually had no camera with which to do the judging - thanks to the damage caused by the Orica Greenedge team bus!

Well, stage 2 gets underway today. Hopefully, Gary Atxa (and no one else) will not encounter any misfortunes getting their bus to the finish in Ajaccio.

Paradoxically, out of yesterday's events there were a few winners. Orica-Greenedge were fined 2,000 Swiss Francs by the UCI for failing to arrive at the finish town within the time limits, but this isn't a lot of money when you consider the publicity the team will have gained from this. How many more times has the team been cited in the media as a result - all for just over £1,000? If you hadn't heard of the team before, you certainly know who they are now! I guess, the designers should have just painted "Orica-Greenedge" on the front of their bus more prominenetly! That is where Vittel have really scored a coup!

Of course Marcel Kittel from Team Argos-Shimano benefited out of this by sprinting his way into the yellow jersey from a depleted field. Another rider to benefit was veteran British pro, David Millar. Having spent the last few years living in the shadows of compratriots Messrs Wiggins, Cavendish and even Hoy, Garmin's Millar was able to profit from the gaps and contest the sprint to finish in 4th place in the stage - not bad for a non-sprinter!

So, while many want to use words like farcical or ridiculous to describe the first stage of this year's Tour de France it hasn't actually been all bad. There has been publicity in the general press and it has given folks something to talk about. On a weekend where Le Tour has had to compete for airtime against Wimbledon, the F1 British Grand Prix, the Confederations Cup, the Lions Tour and even the Glastonbury Festival this cycle event hasn't done too badly at all!

Vive le Tour...and Merci Beaucoup Gary!

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