Organisers of the Tour de France have written to Vincenzo Nibali to defend the security measures on Alpe d’Huez during last year’s race – six months after the Italian was forced to abandon the race when he crashed due to a spectator’s camera strap getting entangled in his handlebars.
The incident happened 4 kilometres from the end of the stage, which Nibali finished in seventh place, 13 seconds behind winner Geraint Thomas, to remain fourth overall. However, a scan that evening revealed that he had fractured a vertebra, and he abandoned the race.
The Gazzetta dello Sport reports that in the letter, written in French and Italian and sent last month to the Bahrain-Merida rider’s lawyer, ASO insisted that “the safety of the athletes is our top priority” and that the security measures adopted in 2018 were “greater than those required by the UCI.”
Among the measures detailed in the letter were the use of 40 private security guards on the climb, the first time that had ever happened, a security cordon being put in place at the boisterous Dutch Corner, and a publicity campaign that urged spectators to respect the riders.
It added that it would be working with the French ministry of the interior on further bolstering security during this year’s race, which starts in Brussels on 6 July.
Nibali’s lawyer Fausto Malucchi said that he and his client “appreciated the reaffirmation of the prioritisation of safety and the involvement of the ministry of the interior. But on what happened that day, our opinions diverge because more than on thing went wrong and Vincenzo was thrown to the ground.
“The drunken state of many spectators, the lack of barriers, so many people but just one gendarme present, subsequently helped by one other.
“We hope to have a lengthy meeting with ASO’s lawyers, because what happened seems clear to us, just as it is clear that Vincenzo was penalised for that Tour (and the remainder of the season) given that in the final of that stage he put in the fastest time for the climb despite the fractured vertebra.”
Hinting that he and Nibali would hope to reach a settlement with ASO without having to take legal action, he added: “When things are that evident, there’s no need to sit down in front of a judge.”
In conclusion, Malucchi said: “I consider this letter to be the opening episode of the story. At first the incident was undervalued, Vincenzo managed to get back to the group even in a fairly short time, but he took a risk. And not a small one.”
Last year, Nibali filed a formal complaint against “persons unknown” with the public prosecutor in Grenoble in relation to the incident and met with French police to discuss the incident, but so far it does not seem that the spectator has been identified.
However, that investigation has identified issues that would be relevant to any action brought by Nibali against ASO, including that the gendarme at the location in question had requested immediate reinforcements ahead of the race’s arrival due to his inability to control the crowd alone.
Just one colleague was sent to assist him, although the Gazzetta dello Sport notes that there were no fewer than 485 gendarmes on duty that afternoon on Alpe d’Huez.
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.