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by Shane Stokes
September 3, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
Although its team owner Oleg Tinkov implied he wanted to remove his Tinkoff-Saxo squad from the Vuelta a España and the team itself said it was considering this course of action, it has now stated that it will continue in the race.
Tinkov’s threat came after a second rider from the team was forced to quit the race from injuries relating to a collision with a motorbike.
Peter Sagan was the first, being struck by a neutral service bike on stage 8. The second was team-mate Sergio Paulinho, who ran into problems early on Wednesday’s stage 11.
“I’m considering now to take the team off the #Vuelta2015 . Boycott #ASO for this. They pay us NO money for the race and even damage riders,” stated Tinkov via Twitter on Wednesday.
The team echoed this in a statement. “Given the seriousness of the two accidents that involved riders of Tinkoff-Saxo at the Vuelta a España, the team will consider whether it is safe to continue racing under the current arrangements,” it said on Wednesday evening.
However it has now confirmed that after holding a meeting with others on the matter, it will continue in the race.
That discussion took place prior to the start in the team bus. The team’s sport directors met the Vuelta a España race director, UCI Commissaires plus representatives of TV España and an initial set of measures were agreed upon to boost safety.
It said that these are:
– The race director will issue a radio communication to all vehicles that safety of the rider is the first and paramount objective and that no risk should be taken to get a video or photo of riders
– The minimum safety distance between motorized vehicles and riders is doubled from the current 5 to 10 meters.
– The organization will thoroughly review and assess the status of all drivers of motorized vehicles, including their driver licenses, qualifications and experience, in order to ensure they are fully capable of safely performing their job.
Another meeting will take place after Thursday’s stage in order to further discuss the topic of safety and also to find a long term solution to boost safety for teams and riders.
“Tinkoff-Saxo’s management believes that these initial measures are a sign of attention to riders’ safety and agreed to start today’s stage under the condition that the team will remain in the race as long as safety is guaranteed,” it said.
However it added a warning to that. “It will be forced to retire from la Vuelta a España if another accident similar to the ones that involved Peter Sagan and Sergio Paulinho takes place again.
Team leader Rafal Majka was sitting fourth overall at the start of stage 12, just one minute 28 seconds off the red jersey of Fabio Aru (Astana).
He has the potential to win the Vuelta a España, and will now be able to continue his push to do so.
The team’s made a list of five demands to the Vuelta organisers and the UCI on Wednesday. It gaven both until the end of the Vuelta to respond, and hasn’t ruled out taking legal action.
It is unknown if Thursday’s meeting has led to a relaxation in any of those demands.