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Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl sport director Geert Van Bondt defended himself after provoking a high-profile crash during Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl that took down a handful of riders, including his own Julian Alaphilippe.
Van Bondt was fined 2,000 CHF (about $2,000) by the race jury after he knocked over riders as he was trying to squeeze past a chasing bunch going into the final lap on a tricky and technical finishing circuit.
Race officials waved through the Ineos Grenadiers car to slot in behind the leading group once it opened up a gap of more than one minute, and Quick-Step soon followed through after Remco Evenepoel was in the group.
Ex-pro Van Bondt was behind the wheel of the Quick-Step car when he tried to pass the pack just as it was coming through the start-finish banner.
According to Van Bondt, he was given the OK to pass the peloton and he said that he was honking his horn to advise riders he was passing on the left. Bryan Coquard moved out to the left of the road, hitting the car with his back wheel in the process. While he didn’t crash, this move caused several others to go down.
“The leading group had a lead of one minute. Ineos was allowed to come forward from the jury and we also received a sign that it was allowed,” Van Bondt told Sporza. “We honked the horn to the riders at the finish and it went pretty well until one rider turned around and went a bit off his line. He hit our car and then it’s no fun.”
Among the riders that went down were American Larry Warbasse (Ag2r-Citroën) and world champion Alaphilippe, who crashed hard on his side. The French rider later abandoned but officials say he will be OK to race the Ardennes classics next week.
The race jury fined Van Bondt for the incident, which provoked different reactions from riders and fans.
Ex-pro Dan Martin wrote on social media that it was the riders’ fault, “The UCI comms would have told [Van Bondt] it was safe to pass, then fined him when it caused a crash because of the narrowing through the finish straight. It was also rider error, not the car’s fault.”
Many suggested Van Bondt could have waited a few moments to get past the narrow start-finish area to try to pass the bunch, and the race jury cited him after the race.
“I can understand that the rider says we shouldn’t be there, but it’s twofold. If something happens to Remco at the front, it’s our responsibility,” Van Bondt said. “I’ve been in the car for 10 years and it’s the first time something like this happens.”