From small fines to big penalties

Hoogerland Flecha crash

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.

Stage 9 Jury

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.

21 thoughts on “From small fines to big penalties”

  1. FWIW: it should be: “pour decourager les autres.” Or: “pour decourager d’autres incidents de ce type. (With an accent aigu on the e).

    Personal note: I hope all riders boycott France 2 and France 3 since their attitude has been pretty despicable right after the crash. ASO also allowed too many cars on the tour.
    The whole thing is turning into a Roman circus….

  2. Contador wasn’t the only one getting the magic spanner today, several riders were seen openly being pushed by mechanics supposedly making repairs & adjustments. At one point Vacansoleil didn’t even try to disguise the fact they were just giving their rider a break (pre-Hoogerland crash, before I’m accused of lacking sympathy).

    I’m surprised to notice a change in your stance since you started writing for / with the bigger news sites. Previously you could be counted on for unbiased coverage and informative posts giving a great insight into how things work, lately you have very much taken on the anti-Contador views of so many others. Frankly, it disappoints me.

  3. Timmy O’Toole: no idea, could be dropping litter or urinating.

    Oliver: if you’re raising the matter, I was quoting Voltaire’s Candide. “Dans ce pays-ci il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres”, take a look at it and the context.

    Alex Oates: where’s the anti-Contador stance? I just mentioned his name because he was the most high profile example. I tried to imply everyone does it, no bias. I’ve done some mobile repairs of my own, leaning out of the window to tweak the text just in case others get confused.

  4. If you read what they precisely say, they tossed the rider out for not obeying instructions, full stop. No mention of reckless endangerment or anything like that. And I have noticed how many fines there have been lately for riders doing things that damage”l’image du cyclisme”. If ASO were really so concerned about cycling’s image, they would quit concentrating on the trivial minutiae of the rule book and start looking at the big picture. And if one more person just shrugs his shoulders and says “that’s cycling”, I think my head will explode.

  5. If I was Hoogerland, I would sue the driver – has there been a case where that has happened in professional racing? I would think of Darryl Impey vs. Theo Bos in the Tour of Turkey 2009 for example…

  6. Beth, I am so with you. My poor sister has born the brunt of my ranting today. I felt a bitter better after reading the Facebook page for France Televisions Sport and the number of outraged French fans. Still seemed like a lot of it was about the response of the media and not the idiot driver but there was some of that too. But it’s the cyclists and the directors (team or ASO) who need to get angry and make sure road laws are followed for the “others” in the tour as well and prosecute the driver.

  7. BTW on a normal day I enjoy very much reading the naughty list and have had fun trying out my french to see if I can figure out the “crime”. Keep tweeting those.

  8. To drop a few names…

    Hanlon’s Razor: stupidity, not malice, is how the car got into those tight quarters, just as it approached a tree on the very edge of the road.

    Sophie’s Choice: the driver must either decelerate rapidly (with the brakes or by slamming into the approaching tree), surely causing carnage, or swerve and hope for a miracle.

  9. I’m surprised at the laid back wait until everything cools down attitude of the big teams as opposed to the frothing at the mouth when talking about banning race radios and how much “safety” is mentioned then. Apparently getting hooped on your ass by a car is okay because we are sure they didn’t mean it..

  10. @inrng: very nice reference, though I wonder, who might have picked up? Outside of that context it’s hard to figure out that the quote is ironic… Need to brush up on my classics for sure….

  11. I’m still unsure why the two riders who were taken out, were not paced back up to the group that they were with. The race organiser should have put them back where they were prior to the incident. Seems the only fair thing to do.

    A stage win last night would have changed their lives and that opportunity was taken from them.

  12. I thought Flecha and Hoogerland would be going ballistic out there but they were quite mature and circumspect about the whole incident. I’ve not seen such a crazy accident before and watching Johnny’s tattooed arse was a painful sight. While ASO’s lax attitude about rider safety was to be blamed for Flecha-Hoogerland incident, the crash which forced JVDB, Vino, Zabriskie to abandon the Tour was caused by Garmin and Omega-Pharma overcooking a corner. I mean what the hell is happening here, is this Tour jinxed or what?

  13. Regardless of what Flecha and Jesus-Christ Hoogerland’s lawyers decide to do, the French prosecutor should charge that driver with reckless imprudence. I think this guy should go to jail. Such running over cyclists would be a criminal offence even outside the race, more so if the race authority testifies the driver contravened the instructions it was given.
    One more reason for a exemplary pènalty against the driver (heavier than just exclusion from the race): the Tour should be the flagship promotion of cycling, of people using bikes all over the world, people whose main problem is their lack of protection against reckless, uneducated drivers, who cause hundreds of deaths every year.

  14. re: legal action – the precedent here is Scott Sunderland being taken out by the TVM team car at the 1998 Fleche Wallone. Scott Sunderland successfully sued the driver Cees Priem (his former ds), but never recovered enough from his injuries to ride at that level again. Completing the circle, Sunderland is now one of Flecha’s ds at team Sky.

  15. Sunderland’s crash was 1998 Amstel. Something worse happened to Jesper Skibby in the 1987 Tour of Flanders. And the driver got away with it. But yesterday it was dreadful, simply DEMENTED. As they are asking in the French-speaking fora, we want to know who was inside that car.

  16. The Article numbers found on the list (as in refers to the UCI rules, Gesink was fined for “Insults, threats, unseemly behaviour”, which doesn’t say very much. In the rules there’s a fairly long list of incidents, I’m a bit interested in number 27:
    “Abandoning a commissaire riding in a Trade Team, National Federation or association
    vehicle during the race.”
    In the bigger events that cost the team managers 2000 CHF.

  17. @Tommy O’Toole > Gesink was fined because he hugged his team mate LL Sanchez during his post-race interview. It is forbidden to disturb these interviews.

    Yep, these French are strange.

  18. Sorry, have to change that, cited a wrong source. He was fined because he threw a water bottle at a photographer on a motor cycle.

  19. @Timmy O’Toole I’m sure it is about le pipi. La caravane d’advertising is littering the country in full impunity but no zizi in front of a mammy, except if it’s televised like in Paris-Roubaix’s showers.

    @Sven & @Bundle Suing the driver is nice but suing ASO makes more sense as they are ultimately responsable for the caravane. A bit like giving some doping responsibility to the DS. The argument from @Andy Turnbull also gives credit to the strategy of suing the party that has real money;-)

    @Chris The big team will affront the UCI any day because they have no say in the team selections. Complaining about the organization of the TdF would be a frontal attack to ASO and they have many ways to forget to invit any team apart from one directed by M. John Lelangue

  20. Where can you find these communiques online? passes on the information daily, but where are they actually published? The tour site is unhelpful, ASO even more so!

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