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Riders hit photographer after apparently losing control of bikes on rain-soaked painted sponsors' logos at stage finish...

Rouleur magazine has confirmed on Twitter that its photographer Taz Darling, who suffered serious injuries yesterday when she was hit at speed by several riders who had just contested the sprint finish of the 100th edition of the Scheldeprijs on rain-soaked roads, is recovering from surgery she underwent last night. Meanwhile, Saxo Bank has confirmed that Australian ride Jonathan Cantwell, one of the cyclists involved, suffered a collapsed lung in the incident.

A tweet posted on the @rouleurmagazine Twitter feed this morning  said that Darling was "out of surgery, doing well, but in a lot of pain," adding, "So many kind messages, thanks." A further tweet at lunchtime stated: "Latest news on Taz is surgery was successful. She is still in intensive care but 'comfortable', as the doctors say."

Yesterday evening, Rouleur managing editor Ian Cleverly, who travelled to Belgium today – editor Guy Andrews was already there – had told road.cc that the injuries suffered by Darling included “collarbone, ruptured spleen [and] eye socket.”

Press reports, as well as footage of the incident from Belgian TV channel Sporza – which we would stress does not show the collision itself – suggested that several involved had lost control of their bikes on the large sponsors’ logos painted across the road close to the finish line, rendered particularly dangerous by the rain. Het Nieuwsblad has a gallery of pictures of the aftermath of the crash.

Darling had been among the photographers positioned shortly after the finish line to capture images of the sprint that brought the stage to a close, which was won by Argos Oli-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel. There would have been little chance for her to get out of the way of the riders as they headed towards her. 

The worst injured of the riders was the Australian rider Jonathan Cantwell of Saxo Bank. In a statement released this morning, one of the team's sports directors, Nick Gates, said: “Johnny had e very unfortunate fall but after having rested in the bus we thought he was ok.

"But as he started complaining about increasing chest pain we called for an ambulance that brought him to the hospital where they reported that his lung had collapsed.

"Luckily, there are no fractures and under the circumstances he feels ok but he has to take a break from training and racing for an unknown period of time. A very unfortunate outcome as he was in great shape.”

One rider not directly caught up in the crash, Katusha’s Maxime Vantomme, can be seen in the Sporza video seeking to give assistance to the stricken photographer.

While we all enjoy looking at pictures of race action, the incident does show the danger to which cycling photographers regularly expose themselves to get those images, and that irrespective of the experience of the photographer or the focus on safety increasingly adopted by organisers, cycling can be an unpredictable sport, especially once elements such as wet roads are introduced.

We know that Rouleur is very popular among road.cc users and that many of you will be familiar with Darling’s work, and we trust you will join us in wishing her all the best for a speedy recovery from her operation and her injuries.
 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

14 comments

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pepita1 [176 posts] 5 years ago
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Does anyone know if her first name is Tanya? And where she's from? I went to art school with a Tanya Darling.

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gazzaputt [231 posts] 5 years ago
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I really don't know why photographers are allowed so close to the end of a sprint.

This isn't the first time by a long way that sprinters haven't careered into photographers.

Hope she makes a full recovery.

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20thebear [54 posts] 5 years ago
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This looks like an accident that was waiting to happen to me. When you have a bunch of guys going full tilt towards a finish I am always amazed that the organisers let the cameramen/women stand so close to the line.

To me it's like standing on the outside of a corner on a rally stage. Something you just would not do.

Maybe something will be learnt from this to stop anyone else (riders and photographers) from getting hurt.

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seanieh66 [196 posts] 5 years ago
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Sad to read this, I hope Taz makes a full and speedy recovery.

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abudhabiChris [691 posts] 5 years ago
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That's awful news and best wishes for her recovery.

It may not be the cause of this incident but I have often wondered why there is such a scrum over the finish line in bike racing. TV cameras, journalists, photographers, team support and then all the stewards and officials to police them. It's a danger to all.

I don't know why they don't have some pool system to limit the number of people at the line, or a clear channel where nobody except the riders can go.

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TrekBikesUK [128 posts] 5 years ago
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Wishing a speedy recovery to Taz. Healing vibes.

She produces some amazing, amazing work.

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drheaton [3323 posts] 5 years ago
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The simple answer is that if you want the best pictures (and every photographer and publisher/agency does) then you need to get as close to the action as possible.

If you stand further back someone who'll take the risk will stand in front of you and ruin your shot (trust me I know) so you line up across the road and get as many shots of them coming across the line as you can (which is what you're really after and what most agencies/websites will print) before bailing.

It's dangerous but it's the risk photographers take for their art and it's fair to say that each one standing their knows the risks involved. It's also a job though and if you've not got the shot someone else will have and you'll be out on your ear.

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step-hent [725 posts] 5 years ago
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drheaton wrote:

If you stand further back someone who'll take the risk will stand in front of you

I guess, then, that it comes down to where the organisers will let you stand - if no-one is allowed to get so close to the finish then everyone's risk is reduced. What about getting the photographers off the ground - putting them on a gantry or something above the finish area? Presumably it would change the feel of the shots being above, rather than below, the riders, but if it's the same for everyone then no-one is at a disadvantage...

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Angelfishsolo [134 posts] 5 years ago
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A few lessons here -

1. Painted logo's are not a good idea. Why not use the inflatable arches Sportives' use.

2. Photographers need some form of protection.

Most importantly however I wish all involved full and speedy recoveries!

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drheaton [3323 posts] 5 years ago
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step-hent wrote:
drheaton wrote:

If you stand further back someone who'll take the risk will stand in front of you

I guess, then, that it comes down to where the organisers will let you stand - if no-one is allowed to get so close to the finish then everyone's risk is reduced. What about getting the photographers off the ground - putting them on a gantry or something above the finish area? Presumably it would change the feel of the shots being above, rather than below, the riders, but if it's the same for everyone then no-one is at a disadvantage...

It's not so much about one photographer having an advantage. It's a scrum for position but with professionals there's probably alot of fairness in there. I doubt having a gantry to shoot from would go down well. Imagine TV pictures being shot from 12 feet over the riders heads, it'd take the immersion out of the shots and they just wouldn't be as effective. You have to remember that the organisers want great pictures as they help to sell the race, the best pictures are from dead centre of the track just after the finish line (assuming it's a sprint finish) so that's what they try to let photographers get.

I'm not saying this is anyone's fault, perhaps with it being wet the organisers should have moved the togs back a bit, maybe the togs should have done that themselves but either way it was an accident and I doubt it will change anything, I expect Darling will be back in the pack as soon as she can because that what she does and this injury probably won't change much.

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Simon_MacMichael [2502 posts] 5 years ago
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Some observations.

Race organisers, certainly at the bigger races, control access to the finish line area very strictly as well as where photographers are positioned. Often, there will be a pre-race briefing specifically for photographers.

From the photos in Het Nieuwsblad and the Sporza video, it looks as though Taz was in the second fan of photographers, well back from the finish line (you can see those in the first fan turn round to see what's happened behind them).

The wet conditions meant the riders skidded a lot further than would have happened had the road been dry (and not had those logos on them).

Riders, remember, will be used to the post-finish line photographers and how they will be positioned; how organisers manage it may depend on the race - in a blanket finish, race staff may be there to pull photographers back towards the barriers the moment the winner crosses the line (it's a surprise the first time that happens to you, but when wind hits you as the riders go by, you're glad they did).

On Sunday's Tour of Flanders, though, with only three man sprint, it looked from TV pics that organisers (same as those of yesterday's race) had been particularly generous in allocation of spaces - big groups on each side of road, not much of a gap for Boonen, Pozzato and Ballan to ride through, but because it was three riders it wasn't an issue.

Post-finish line crashes don't happen often. Yesterday's I think was entirely down to the road markings and the wet roads, and it took the riders off the course they should have been on and into the photographers (not that they could do anything about that).

Perhaps that means a case-by-case risk assessment depending on the conditions, and stricter control of sponsors' logos at the end or use of paint etc that doesn't alter the road surface.

There's a couple of points to be made about the post race media scrum generally. Road cycling, as a sport, or at least its biggest races, were created by newspapers as a means of boosting circulation. Almost all major European races are still either owned by businesses that also own leading sports papers (ASO/RCS) or retain strong links to the press.

And while the media wants those words or pictures, the team business model, which relies first and foremost on sponsorship (or the largesse of a rich benefactor in some cases) means that the riders' job is to get the sponsor's logo into the press.

It's something Mark Cavendish highlights regularly at press conferences, and it's a relationship between the press, the people who stage the events and the competitors that you don't find in other sports.

Any incident such as the one that happened to Taz yesterday provides an opportunity for lessons to be learnt ad improvements to safety to be made. But I don't think we're going to see post-line photographers or interviewers disappear any time soon.

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shot18 [55 posts] 5 years ago
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It's a disgrace that the only person attending to Taz is a rider who has just completed a very difficult race. Plaudits to the Katusha rider, but where were the officials. A disgrace.

Wishing a quick recovery to all those injured. A collapsed lung sound like a potential career ending injury... let's hope it's not too severe

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dave atkinson [6317 posts] 5 years ago
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am i being dense, or is all that's needed a few hay bales for the photographers to crouch behind? that way if the riders come off they'll hit them, which is better for everyone.

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onlyonediane [157 posts] 5 years ago
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No Dave, a great idea.