Like any sporting event the Tour de France has its officials, its referees, who are tasked with ensuring the rules are followed and those who break them get caught and sanctioned. In cycling these arbiters are called commissaires, a French word.
They can exclude riders and rule on whether a bike is appropriate for the race but most of their day is spent in a car or on a motorbike whilst the officiate during the race. Every evening a summary of misdemeanours committed is released by the race organisers. Here’s Sunday night’s version.
If it’s in French, note Amador and Arrieta cop fines for drafting behind a car too long, that Duque ignored some orders from a race official and Gesink did something inappropriate. All fines are in Swiss Francs (CHF), an unfortunately hard currency for miscreants.
Sometimes the list can be longer and perhaps you didn’t know it but the rules actually forbid a rider from getting their bike fixed on the move, a mechanic is not allowed to lean out of the window and conduct mobile repairs, a scene many viewers might have witnessed today after Contador crashed and one you might have seen a hundred times before. But the commissaires don’t catch everyone and some infractions seem to be tolerated.
But some moves are never acceptable. As well as the Commissaires ruling on petty infringements, here is the race organisation’s statement on the reckless driving by a media car that took out Johnny Hoogerland and Juan-Antonio Flecha:
“The concerned vehicle previously received the order from the race Direction not to pass and let Europcar team manager goes to the break to give Thomas Voeckler the bottle he was asking for. They did not take that order into account and went their way, which caused the crash of both riders. Such a behaviour is intolerable.“
ASO also state the driver has been thrown off the race and issued another reminder that team cars have priority over other vehicles, whether television or VIPs. Ignoring the official advice and then swerving into riders to avoid a roadside tree doesn’t leave many excuses for the driver concerned, sometimes accidents can happen but it’s hard not view the driver involved in a harsh light even though they have yet to give their version of events.
As we saw during one day alone the race is dangerous enough thanks to a range of factors from bad luck to wet roads but today’s accident, just like Nicki Sorensen’s motorbike-induced crash earlier this week, is beyond the normal risk a rider can expect. As well as issuing small fines for drafting vehicles, I hope the UCI and ASO take firm action against anyone provoking needless crashes. Pour encourager les autres.