NICE, France (Reuters) – Briton Luke Rowe hit out at Astana after the riders from the Kazakh team piled on the pressure — and then paid the price –on a wet descent during the first stage of the Tour de France on Saturday.
Jumbo Visma’s Tony Martin, one of the peloton’s veterans, had signalled for the pack to slow down on a long downhill section to avoid crashes on a rain-hit ride, but Astana refused to take their collective foot off the gas.
It backfired as their team leader Miguel Angel Lopez lost control of his bike and aquaplaned head-first into a road sign.
Astana’s actions, in particular, earned a dismissive response from Rowe, a rider for Ineos Grenadiers.
“I have to say ‘chapeau’ to the whole peloton — minus Astana to hit it down one climb, and as a result, their leader was left on his back,” Rowe told reporters.
“They made themselves look pretty stupid but apart from them, ‘chapeau’ to the whole peloton.
“I think that most teams, at least half their teams, have touched down today. Luckily we passed it,” Rowe added.
Ineos Grenadiers climber Pavel Sivakov hit the ground twice, sustaining several bruises.
“We had a couple of touchdowns but in general we came through,” said Rowe.
“We got this riders organisation, or group, and there are a couple of guys from each team in there, and we spoke about it last night with how we’d approach the Tour de France in general and look after each other and do the right thing when needed.
“Whilst you want to race and put on the best show, you could see how many crashes there were and that was with the three descents at a very careful speed.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ian Chadband)