Following hours of speculation and confusion about the circumstances of the crash which took Alberto Contador out of the Tour de France, the Specialized company has clarified how one of the rider’s bikes was broken in half.
It has stated categorically that the badly damaged frame shown on French television did not occur in the impact, but rather was a spare machine damaged on the roof of the Tinkoff Saxo team car during the frantic moments after the Spaniard fell.
According to the company’s team liaison Giampaolo Mondini, the rider fell on a straight road when he was descending at speed. “He was trying to take some bars from his pocket, the tarmac was irregular and he lost the control of his bike and fell,” he told CyclingTips.
“What happened next is that the team car tried to get recover position and get up to him, passing all the other team cars in doing so. The road was really narrow and the second bike on the roof ended up touching those on the Belkin team car. It was going pretty fast and the frame broke on top of the roof due to the impact.
“When the car arrived to Contador, Roche had left his bike to the side [for Contador to use if necessary]. The people inside didn’t initially realise that the bike on the roof had been broken as things were so stressful. Everybody was a little bit confused. Contador got a third bike and got going, but unfortunately couldn’t continue in the race.”
— Richard Keeskamp (@RichardKeeskamp) July 14, 2014
Mixed messages lead to questions about what happened:
The account comes hours after the accident and after a period of considerable confusion about what exactly had occurred. That confusion led to speculation and rumours about Contador’s crash, and questions about whether or not the company was telling the full story.
The sequence of events started to unfold when Contador hit the deck between the first category climbs of the Petit Ballon and the Col du Platzerwasel. He suffered a blow to his leg which left it bloodied and cut. He rode on for several kilometres before then stopping due to the pain; after the stage, it was confirmed that he had fractured his right tibia and would need an operation.
Riders in the peloton who saw the crash told CyclingTips that Contador slipped off his handlebar and went down in the middle of a long straight road by himself. They added that there was no indication of a buckled frame.
Team Manager Bjarne Riis said afterwards that the rider crashed “on a fast and straight part of the descent. He was reaching for his pocket and the bike was swept away under him, probably because of a bump or hole in the road.”
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) told Spanish radio that he saw Contador slip off his bars. “I saw him crash right in front of me. His handlebars slipped when he hit a pothole. I realized at the feed zone that he abandoned.”
TV images showed a snapped bicycle being loaded into the team car, leading to television broadcasters suggesting the frame had snapped and caused the crash.
The team’s bike sponsor Specialized issued a statement several hours ago dismissing this. That reads as follows:
“We have spoken to Alberto’s brother as well as his personal mechanic (Faustino Muñoz) and the mechanic who was at the scene (Rune Kristensen), and contrary to some early, unconfirmed reports, frame failure was not involved in Alberto’s incident today.
“Nicolas Roche was involved in a separate incident today and while his bike was laying on the road it was run over by a car causing it to break, potentially giving rise to the initial inaccurate reporting. Live race reporting is difficult and sometimes mistakes are made. We are continuing to research the events of today and will share any further details as we learn more.”
— Joxean Fdez. Matxin (@Matxin_) July 15, 2014
This initial story was clearly contradicted by the television images which showed the snapped frame bearing Contador’s own number rather than that of Roche.
Amid the confusion, Mondini then gave a different account. He told CyclingTips that during the stage, Contador’s spare bike had fallen off the roof of the team car and that it had broken with the impact.
He said that as a result of that, when Contador crashed he was given a bike by Nicolas Roche, who was on the new McLaren Specialized Tarmac machine.
The confusion continued when a different source close to Specialized told CyclingTips that after Contador fell his spare bike was taken off the roof of the Tinkoff Saxo car by his mechanic Faustino Munoz, when then went to the rider’s aid. The car’s driver was unaware of the location of the bike and accidentally ran over it, again resulting in the snapped frame.
— John MacLeary (@JohnMacLeary) July 14, 2014
Several Tour riders expressed surprise at this, telling CyclingTips that from their experience, spare bikes don’t have race numbers on them [image].
However, according to Mondini, Contador’s personal mechanic Munoz – who is known as a perfectionist – ensures that his rider’s number is on both the usual race bike and also his spare.
The multiple accounts led to a lot of speculation about what happened and if the company was trying to avoid the negative publicity a snapped frame would bring.
However Mondini’s latest account appears to be corroborated by the Dutch website Nusport.nl. It quotes team manager Merijn Zeeman, who was driving the team car, as saying that the Tinkoff Saxo team car did indeed pass too closely to the Belkin car and caused the bikes to clash.
He said that this impact caused a bike to come clear of the roof rack and to clatter onto the team’s windscreen.
The day has reflected a double blow for the company. Firstly, it lost the Tinkoff Saxo team leader, one of its top riders and a competitor it had invested in to win the Tour. Secondly, the confusion and the initial erroneous statement did little to stem the questioning about the cause of the accident.
Specialized does have a silver lining, though; Astana leader Vincenzo Nibali retook the yellow jersey with a dominant ride, and is the clear favourite to win the race in Paris. He too is on a Specialized, as was the rider who spent the day in the mountains jersey and towing the break along, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma Quick Step).
It was a tough day for the Tinkoff Saxo squad, but the triple team backing ensures that there is still something for Specialized to celebrate in the Tour.
If all this doesn’t make sense, simply watch this: