Cycling team blames race organizers for San Sebastian crash
BMC Racing Team is blaming organizers and the sport's governing body after cyclist Greg Van Avermaet was taken out by a race motorbike while leading the Clasica San Sebastian, the latest in a string of accidents that have knocked out riders for the U.S.-based team.
Van Avermaet had attacked on the final climb of the Spanish one-day race Saturday when he was plowed into from behind by a motorbike. The Belgian rider had opened a sizeable gap on the rest of the field, but the incident spoiled his chances of holding on for the victory.
Adam Yates of Orica-GreenEdge attacked moments later and went on to win.
''This was not a sporting incident. This was caused by pure negligence, which cost the team millions of dollars in lost publicity,'' BMC Racing Team president Jim Ochowicz said Sunday in a statement.
''We plan to explore every legal option available to us.''
Legal options are tricky, of course, given the international nature of cycling. Laws vary by nation, and it is still unclear who is ultimately to blame: race organizers, the motorbike rider, the TV network that employed it, even the UCI, cycling's global governing body.
''This is the second time this year we have had an incident with a local organizer of a WorldTour race where they have acted in a scandalous fashion,'' Ochowicz said. ''The UCI has been nowhere in this to resolve the problem.''
Earlier this year, BMC rider Peter Stetina fractured his right leg, hurt his knee and broke five ribs when he crashed near the finish of a stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco. Stetina was riding at a high speed when he hit a metal pole that was left in the road.
Last year, time trial standout Taylor Phinney - another BMC rider - crashed into a motorcycle during a descent at the U.S. road race championships. Phinney fractured his tibia, dislocated his fibula, shattered his kneecap and severed his patellar tendon. He has been out of racing for more than a year, but is due to join Stetina in making his comeback at this week's Tour of Utah.
Van Avermaet was not seriously hurt in his crash, but he quickly took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with the incident: ''I was going to win ... until the moto run into me and put me on the ground. Game over!'' he tweeted. ''Bravo organization, bravo moto!''
''This comes back to safety issues in races where the local organizer of WorldTour events and the UCI are negligent in providing a safe racing environment,'' said Ochowicz, also a proponent of smaller fields for grand tours - such as the Tour de France - because of safety concerns.
''Greg was robbed and the BMC Racing Team was robbed when this happened,'' Ochowicz said. ''I am appalled that this could occur in a WorldTour race.''