July 15, 2003
Jeremy Whittle, editor of Britain's Pro Cycling magazine, has an article at The Time Online site outlining the ONCE team's concern that publicity efforts may have outweighed safety on the road down Cote de la Rochette yesterday:
Yesterday, after the Spaniard’s dramatic exit, Beloki’s ONCE team accused the Tour de France organisation of putting commercial considerations before the safety of the riders. “Everybody’s worried about security and we’re obliged to wear helmets now,” Mikel Pradera, a team-mate of Beloki, told the Spanish media. “But with the heat, the roads start to melt and that puts them into a bad condition. Then the caravan comes through and tears them up even more and nobody realises what can happen because of that.”
Beloki, who broke a leg, wrist and elbow in the crash, was taken from the scene by ambulance to Gap and yesterday was flown from Marseilles to his home town of Vitoria, where his broken femur was due to be operated on. But in a communiqué issued late on Monday night, the Tour’s maintenance team revealed that the road temperature on the Côte de la Rochette, where Beloki came to grief, had been 52C and the surface had not, as would normally be the case, been treated.
“Several times during the day the road team sprayed the race route with water to try and reduce the temperature and prevent any further deterioration,” the communiqué issued by the Equipement organisation read. “Towards the end of the stage, on the descent of the Rochette, the proximity of the publicity caravan to the race did not allow any intervention. In these circumstances, the riders were warned of the danger before they rode down the descent.”
Whittle also quotes David Millar, who discounts the effect of road conditions in Beloki's crash:
To some eyes, Beloki was unlucky, but to others, on a descent that was clearly dangerous, he was foolhardy. “He made a professional error,” David Millar, of Britain, said, referring to the Spaniard’s misjudgment of the crucial bend. “It’s a misconception that the roads are more dangerous in conditions like that. It’s actually better for descending because the roads are tacky, so there’s less risk of your wheel sliding away.”