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ÉPERNAY, France (VN) — Parkhotel Valkenburg sport director Bart Faes has defended Nicole Frain and the team’s decision to keep her in the race following her crash with Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope) on stage 2 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
Speaking before Tuesday’s stage from Reims to Épernay, FDJ manager Stephen Delcourt said that Frain should be pulled from the race by her team.
Frain collided with Cavalli with about 25 kilometers to go of the stage from Meaux to Provins as she was returning from the peloton following an earlier crash. Cavalli had slowed to avoid an incident in front when the two came together, causing both riders to be thrown from their bikes.
Cavalli would later retire from the race as a precaution. Medical checks did not reveal any major injuries but she remains under observation by the team for any symptoms of concussion.
“Of course, first of all, we will say we are very happy that Marta is not hurt so much, because for us it was also a big thing. We were scared she would have a big injury and that is the last thing that should happen,” Faes said. “I was going to him this morning, Nicole was calling him and he also said that to me and he promised that he would not say that to journalists.
“It was not her intention to do it, for sure not, she did not want to hurt someone else. That cannot be the intention. If we had the feeling that was her intention then we would take her out, of course. If someone had the intention to hurt someone else, then we would have to take her out.”
Faes said that he had instructed the riders to move up the left side of the road at pace when the crash occurred. He added that Frain saw the fallen riders too late to be able to brake adequately and was unable to scrub off the speed quickly enough to avoid the riders.
“Nicole was coming back from an earlier crash in the wheel of another rider of ours. We were in the car behind and didn’t see what happened,” he said. “At the moment they came back, I said to the girl in front of her try to go fast on the left side. At that moment, there was a crash and you need just one or two seconds to have a reaction.
“The girls at that moment were driving 53kph. When you don’t look for just one second, you are 15 meters further and that happened. She said after the race that she thought there was a gap, but she didn’t realize what had happened in front of her, she didn’t see the crash.”
The media was not allowed to speak with Frain at the finish line of stage 3, with all questions directed toward the DSs.
Since the crash Monday, Frain has been on the receiving end of a lot of abuse on social media. Faes said that the team had tried to shield her from it, but it was hard to do so.
“We have tried to block it for her, but she’s read it of course and she was crying,” he said. “Most people in cycling, in this race, know what happens. That’s the most important. It’s never the plan to hurt somebody. If people think that, please go away and do another thing.”