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Today in Nobody Wins: Wayward Moto Edition

Fuglsang finishes in one piece
Fuglsang finishes in one piece
Lionel Bonaventure, AFP/Getty

Today's weirdest Tour de France crash (and thankfully one of very few on the day) goes to Astana's Jakob Fuglsang, who went down for mysterious reasons on the climb of the Col du Glandon:

Well, not that mysterious:

Fuglsang had the pleasure of being knocked clean off his bike by a press moto that clipped his handlebars as it muscled past him. From the second video, the driver appeared to be in a tremendous hurry, and also didn't seem to think there were all that many cyclists on the road.

Romain Bardet of AG2R won the stage from this group. Everybody else lost, including you and me. Let's run it down. [The information. Not Romain Bardet or anyone else.]

  • Pierre Rolland is the guy in dark green, racing for Europcar, who swerves around the suddenly prone Fuglsang and his cartwheeling bike. He finished second on the stage to Bardet.
  • Nobody else won the race. Certainly not Ryder Hesjedal, who was nearly victim #1 in the second video clip. Hesjedal, the former mountain biker, was alert enough to sense danger and, like a Chinook salmon darting away from the mouth of a hungry orca, avoid his doom. But he didn't turn many more pedals in anger today, his rhythm broken.
  • Jakob Fuglsang is the primary victim here. What seems like a useful move on his part -- moving off the front of the race to let Bardet take over pacemaking -- becomes instant disaster. Fuglsang is knocked to the ground, gashing his elbow and applying a fresh coat of anger to an already existing left hip bruise. Cyclists typically have about negative zero percent body fat at this point of the Tour, so Fuglsang doesn't bounce off the pavement any more buoyantly than the proverbial dead cat. He could use that blood in his legs tomorrow, rather than having it diverted to treating dented flesh or escaping altogether. Oh well.
  • Fuglsang's ill-fated maneuver more or less decides the cover of every sports page in France, since Bardet, not Fuglsang, can be seen speeding up the road to an eventual victory at this precise moment. But the stage win was only part of the cost paid for moving sideways in the vicinity of this moto. Fuglsang's primary ambition was to steal all the mountain points from a bonking Joaquim Rodriguez, who missed his feed bag prior to the ascent, but who had taken all of the top mountain points available prior to the Glandon. Those, however, were mere trifles, Cat 1 and 2 ascents with up to 5 points. The Glandon is an HC with 25 points to the first guy. Fuglsang got up off the ground and still made it over the line in fourth, for 14 points. A frisky Bardet might not have been stopped, but second place was still worth 20. Fuglsang trails J-Rod in the overall KOM competition by four points.
  • Oh, and after stopping to collect himself and consult with his team about the state of his bike, Fuglsang did the old hand-up thing to get back up to speed... and got fined 50 Swiss Francs by the race jury for that move.
  • The moto driver was allegedly upset with himself for causing this havoc, though personally I'm not too sympathetic. There's "I'm sorry for doing something I never intended," and then there's "I'm sorry for doing something that I should have been properly trained not to do but for some reason wasn't." How do you drive in the Tour de France with seemingly no awareness of cyclists? Yes, he was probably speeding up to see if Bardet was about to hit the gas (he was) and win the race (he did), and yes, both Hesjedal and Fuglsang moved off their lines as the moto came around. But surely you don't get to drive at the Tour before first driving about 1000 local races and learning that bikes move around unexpectedly. In this five second span the driver doesn't seem to think there is anyone else on the road. He got tossed off the Tour for his efforts. Go back to moto school.
  • The incident also raises an important question for us regular cyclists: is there anywhere you can go on your bike to avoid homicidal drivers? You would think that training yourself up to be a Tour de France-qualified rider, and be selected to ride the most important race in the world, on closed roads, would afford you a measure of safety from vehicular manslaughter-quality driving. And you would be wrong. Stay helmeted, my friends.