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AJACCIO, France (AFP) — The driver of the Orica-GreenEdge team bus that blocked the finish line to the opening stage of the 100th Tour de France on Saturday has apologized for the incident, which sparked a chaotic finish to the stage as riders arrived in Bastia.
The bus became stuck under a gantry right at the end of the stage, and organizers proposed moving the finish line forward by 3km before eventually clearing the vehicle.
That allowed them to revert to the original race plan, but not before confusion among the peloton led to a mass crash 6km from the end, with Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) among the riders to hit the deck.
Garikoitz Atxa, a Spanish former cyclist who was on his first day working as the Orica team’s bus driver, was caught on camera with his head in his hands when the incident happened.
He told Eurosport television on Sunday: “I don’t know whether I’m famous or infamous. I’m feeling terrible but it’s all over and there was nobody injured in the finish.
“This was my first day driving the bus so it’s not a good start but I hope they have faith in me. I tried to sleep but I had a lot on my mind and I hope today will go okay.
“The team were kind and sympathetic and I’m grateful for all the nice things they said, and what else can I say but I’m sorry.”
Orica sporting director Matt White sought to absolve Atxa of blame on Saturday night by insisting that he was simply following instructions.
However, organizers fined the team 2,000 Swiss francs (US$2,116) by for “not respecting the timetable put in place for auxiliary team vehicles arriving at the stage finish.”