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The final day of racing at Paris-Nice showcased the impressive talents of Tour de France contenders, including a dominant display by overall winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). However, the best bike skills of the day did not find a podium result, but instead paid dividends by avoiding disaster.
Somehow, a vehicle made its way onto the section of road on which riders were descending with a little more than half of the 117.5 kilometres of stage 8 remaining. A small group chasing the peloton managed to avoid a collision and it was all captured by broadcast cameras.
Florian Sénéchal (Soudal-QuickStep) posted a screenshot of the incident that was broadcast on Eurosport and GCN to his Twitter feed after the race concluded, saying “Another day in the death race”.
The race had exploded on the descent of the Côte de Châteauneuf, and shortly after cresting the category 2 Côte de Berre les Alpes, near disaster loomed.
Five riders had charged to the front of the race with 50.5km to go, Stefan Kung (Groupama FDJ), Clément Champoussin (Arkea Samsic), Oliver Naesen (AG2R-Citroën), Lucas Hamilton (Jayco AlUla) and Jan Tratnik (Jumlo-Visma), riding full throttle just 10 seconds ahead of a large group, with race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), who had caught most of a breakaway. They were all completely unaware of the failure to completely shut down the course from local traffic behind them.
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Broadcast cameras caught the incident as a second group of 11 chasers rounded a sweeping corner on the descent of the Côte de Berre les Alpes and had to swing to the right side of the road to avoid a small car, which appeared to have stopped from its uphill progress in the opposite side of the road. A lead race motorcycle at the front of the group also appeared to swerve and miss the oncoming vehicle.
“Oh my gracious! How did that happen?” exclaimed US announcer and former pro rider Bob Roll on the broadcast by Peacock, a streaming service for NBC Sports that was seen by a US audience. “That could have been an absolute nightmare.”
His broadcast partner and another former WorldTour rider Christian Vande Velde noted that the riders were already taking risks on the road to catch the peloton and an added risk of a stray vehicle, on what was supposed to be a closed course, should not have been part of the equation.
“This is a residential road, Bob. You know if you don’t secure every driveway, it is easy for some person in between groups to just think there’s nothing going on,” Vande Velde said.
Domen Novak (UAE Team Emirates), who was trying to catch the peloton ahead to help teammate Pogačar, was one of the riders in that chasing group which proved to be highly attentive. There were no other reports of a stray vehicle on the course once his group passed and continued the chase.
“Cycling is one of the worst sports bad for the safety of riders and spectators,” Sénéchal said on one of his social posts during Paris-Nice.
He had also called attention to other issues related to rider safety, from images of exposed ‘road furniture’ to an instance three days earlier when Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) was pushed from behind by a race vehicle while he was doing an interview for RAI Sport.
It was less than two weeks ago when a horse wearing a halter escaped onto the course of Strade Bianche Women. Media images captured the encounter as Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) had to slow her chase of then-leader Kristen Faulkner (Team Jayco-AlUla) with less than 30km to go and avoid contact with the animal.