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Concluding the investigations it promised when two of its neutral service cars were involved in collisions with riders during the Tour of Flanders, Shimano has published its findings and issued apologies in relation to the two events.
The company didn’t specify if the drivers concerned would continue working in the same role, but said that both matters were unintentional and occurred in high pressure situations.
It said that the first incident involving the Trek Factory Racing rider Jesse Sergent occurred after race radio instructed all drivers following the early break to move quickly to the front of the race, due both to a dropping time gap and also upcoming narrow roads.
“Following the convoy and in a pressurized race situation, the highly qualified driver chose to progress at the wrong moment, resulting in him crossing Jesse’s racing line on a corner, coming into contact with the rider,” it said.
“The driver has an exemplary 14 years of neutral support experience at World Championships, Olympics and Belgian Classics to his name and had recently renewed his licence with his country’s cycling federation.”
The company added that the driver realised right away what had happened and pulled in when safe to do so.
“He retrieved Jesse’s bike from the on-coming flow of traffic and attempted to aid the rider before contacting police and ambulance services,” the statement continued. “We are assured that, aside from a split-second error of judgement, all protocols were followed, both to mitigate the chance of an accident and how to respond after an accident.”
The car sought to pass on Sergent’s left side at precisely the same moment the rider moved to the left in order to cut the corner. Such manoeuvres by participants are typical in races, making the incident difficult to understand.
Sergent suffered a fractured collarbone in the fall. According to Shimano, the company’s race staff visited the rider and his team after he was released from hospital. It said that apologies were offered and accepted, and that Sergent is back training and aiming to resume competition in June.
“We were saddened to learn of the injury suffered by Jesse and the circumstances behind the accident,” said a Shimano representative. “Many of us at Shimano race bikes and we know how easy it is to make the wrong decision in a race environment.
“We are committed to supporting racing teams at all levels of professional racing and we would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Jesse Sergent and Trek Factory Racing.”
A later crash saw a separate Shimano neutral service car run into the back of a FDJ vehicle, which in turn was shunted into one of the latter’s stationary riders, Sébastien Chavanel. He was knocked over by the impact but fortunately was not as badly hurt as Sergent.
“Shimano also apologizes formally to the Francais Des Jeux team and Sébastien Chavanel for its part in the incident,” the company stated.
It concluded by saying that it was committed to continuing its role in races.
“Shimano will continue to play a valuable neutral support role for riders at UCI World Tour, World Cup and lower level road, mountain bike and cyclocross races across Europe, building on 14 years of neutral support commitment to the sport we, as fans and participants first and foremost, are so passionate about growing.”