Nobody was seriously injured, but the dramatic crash forced one rider to abandon the race with a broken finger and three favorites to lose serious time.
The incident renewed calls for increased safety for the athletes.
With 15 kilometers to go, the peloton was racing at high speed toward the finishing climb at Blockhaus. It was the most critical day of this year’s Giro so far, with the general-classification riders looking at one another to see who might attack and go for the race lead.
That’s when Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) clipped the motorbike and went down with a number of riders. Kelderman broke his finger and was to have X-rays.
Normally, race motorbikes park off the side of the road, not on it, so the riders – racing closely together at high speed – would not have expected to find a motorbike on the racecourse.
The motorbike “was stopped just after a right bend, we couldn’t see it till the last moment and could only shout,” Sunweb rider Chad Haga wrote on Twitter.
Giro race director Mauro Vegni said the driver of the motorcycle had made a “mistake in judgment,” but he added that he hoped the incident would not ruin the work that the Italian state police has been doing for years.
Team Sky appeared most affected, with several of its riders crashing.
Top favorites Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa of Sky crashed. Thomas finished over 5 minutes down on stage winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar), the new race leader. Landa finished over 26 minutes behind Quintana.
Adam Yates of Orica-Scott, another favorite, also went down. He lost 4:39.
Here’s a slo-mo:
It’s unclear why the motorbike driver had parked on the racecourse instead of pulling off the road. TV commentator Daniel Lloyd was among many who expressed frustration over the incident, pointing out the “stupidity” of it.
“The influence motor vehicles have on pro bike racing is ridiculous. I don’t know what the answer is but it needs sorting,” Lloyd also wrote on Twitter.
Here’s a longer look at the incident and the aftermath:
“I was on the floor for quite a while and then waiting to get a bike and everything. It was just a shame because that shouldn’t happen.”
Just landed to the news of what happened at #Giro2017 ????
Gutted for the team ????
— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) May 14, 2017
WTF. What was that motorbike doing there!?!? So dissapointed for @W1lcokelderman. He was feeling so good… Heal up quick buddy!
— Tom Dumoulin (@tom_dumoulin) May 14, 2017
‘The motorbike shouldn’t have been there’
There have been several crashes involving race motorbikes and cars in pro cycling. It is clear that race organizers still have not figured out a way to ensure the athletes’ safety from race vehicles and motorbikes 100%.
“The motorbike shouldn’t have been there – I think we all see that,” Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford said. “But I’m sure the guy riding the motorbike realises that too, and I’m sure he isn’t feeling too great about it. So we leave it at that, but I do think we need to go back and have a look at it, and ask the questions, why it happened.”
He added: “But we always say this, we always say, ‘We need to move on,’ but we’ve had deaths in cycling because of this and we really have to just stop saying ‘Move on’ – we really have to do something about it.”
Antoine Demoitié died after being hit by a motorbike at Gent-Wevelgem in 2016. At the 2015 Tour of Flanders, the driver of a support vehicle stuck Jesse Sergent and sent him crashing.
— cyclingreporter (@cyclingreporter) April 5, 2015
Last year, Tour de France champion Chris Froome was caught up in a dramatic crash when a rider in front of him hit a race motorbike that was in the way.
In the 2011 Tour de France, a French television car crashed into riders, sending one of them flying into barbed wire:
At the 2015 Tour of Spain, cycling star Peter Sagan was struck by the driver of a race motorbike.
“Another bike race, another problem. The recent spate of terrifying accidents in professional cycling … has incited fans, athletes, and coaches to carefully consider how pro cycling is conducted and how it could be improved.”
Criticism of Sunday’s Giro incident came swiftly on social media:
Obstacles like that come at you very quickly at 60kph+, particularly when bunch spread across the road. https://t.co/zVy0wrjlae
— Daniel Lloyd (@daniellloyd1) May 14, 2017
The influence motor vehicles have on pro bike racing is ridiculous. I don’t know what the answer is but it needs sorting.
— Daniel Lloyd (@daniellloyd1) May 14, 2017
Months and months of training and sacrifices, down the drain because of a stupidly parked motorcycle. NOT OK.
— Brian Nygaard (@nygaardbn) May 14, 2017
Disaster for Thomas & Yates & Giro as a whole – issues with motos still bedevil this sport
— William Fotheringham (@willfoth) May 14, 2017