CARCASSONNE, France (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali‘s Bahrain-Merida team is considering legal action against the Tour de France organizer after a fan caused the Italian star to crash on the Alpe d’Huez last week.
Nibali fractured a vertebra in the fall around four kilometers remaining on the iconic climb that concluded stage 12. He amazingly recovered and finished 13 seconds behind the favorites.
After the fracture was revealed, the 2014 winner pulled the plug on his 2018 Tour campaign. Bahrain-Merida was left empty-handed when only hours earlier it had Nibali sitting fourth overall and calling for the overall title.
“We are evaluating the situation at the moment,” team manager Brent Copeland told VeloNews. “In theory race organizer ASO has insurance for this kind of thing.
“We saw the images of the race, we saw where he crashed, there were barriers there, people pushed the barriers. If ASO doesn’t want to come to terms with some kind of insurance, then we will have to take some legal action.”
The famous climb saw Great Britain’s first winner with Geraint Thomas winning in the yellow jersey. The climb, however, has been a hotspot in recent years for hooligan-style parties. The Dutch corner, switchback seven of 21, especially was a problem.
This year, ASO clamped down on the corner but other areas were unruly and the organizer appeared unable to control the situation despite support from police. When the fans squeezed on the Thomas group with Chris Froome and Nibali, the police escort bikes had little space. One fan’s strap from a camera or similar device appears to have hooked Nibali’s handlebars and set the grand tour star to the ground quickly.
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It added to the other problems on the climb. Froome was hit on two separate occasions by men on the side of the road. When fans were not closing in or running alongside the million-dollar athletes, smoke bombs filled the air — and their lungs.
“We feel that there should have been more investment made for Alpe d’Huez, the last three and a half kilometers of barriers is not enough on a climb like Alpe d’Huez in a race like the Tour,” Copeland added.
“At least put more civil protection or people on the climb to protect the riders, especially this year with the Froome case. We expected more from ASO.”
Nibali rode in an ambulance 50 miles to the Grenoble hospital without an airlift available. Afterward, he returned to the team’s hotel at the top of the Alpine climb at 1,850 meters. That night, race director Christian Prudhomme visited him to apologize and shake his hand. It seemed well-intentioned, but perhaps as a way for organizer ASO to wash its hands of the issue and move on.
“Someone has to do something sooner or later, otherwise it’s just apologies and it ends there, which is not acceptable for a rider like Vincenzo. He was feeling really strong. I don’t think it’ll change that much, but we want well-mannered people on the climb, not drunk people or running next to the riders and hitting them,” Copeland added.
“We don’t want Tour athletes to be hit by the public, that’s not the image of cycling. It’s always been good for cycling, but this year there seems to be more aggression.
“We invest millions in our riders, it’s not just the economics, but the time, and investment, and making a good team to make a good show, but you get there and you have your rider pulled off by a fan. That’s a huge damage to us and the sport, the organizer should work against that, especially on like ASO. And the UCI should enforce rules to make sure the organizers do so.”