German rider Marcel Kittel won the first stage of the highly anticipated 100th Tour de France from Porto Vecchio to Bastia in Corsica, and although it was the “best day of his career”, it was not without trouble. As the Sydney Morning Herald reported, the Australian team Orica-GreenEDGE bus arrived late to the stage finish, and was given permission by organisers to drive down the finish stretch. The bus soon became stuck underneath the banner that marked the finish line, as there was not enough clearance. The event organisers considered shortening the stage by two kilometres, and announced this to riders over radio, however through deflating the bus’ tires, officials were able to get the bus out of the way. The ensuing confusion over where the finish line was to be has been deemed the cause of a pile-up of riders, as confusing radio announcements attempted to direct and re-route the competitors. Approximately fifteen riders fell, and the “carnage” reportedly delayed others from reaching the finish line. As British sprinter Mark Cavendish told Sports Illustrated, “What caused the problems was changing the finish. Like, we heard on the radio with literally five kilometres to go that the sprint was in two kilometres then a kilometre later, they were like ‘No, it’s at the finish’. It’s just carnage.” Cavendish, who’d reportedly been aiming for his 24th stage win, was one of the many riders stuck behind the pile-up, and of seeing him “no longer in contention” Kittel told the Huffington Post “it was a good chance for us”. Among those also held back from the finish were Andre Greipel and Peter Sagan, who were expected to be among the stage one challengers at the end, according to the UK’s Daily Mail.
The Union Cycliste Interntaionale race jury fined team Orica-GreenEDGE 2000 Swiss francs for “not respecting the timetable put in place for auxiliary team vehicles arriving at the stage finish”. The pensive bus driver publically apologised for the incident, however the team told reporters that he had been simply following instructions, and wasn’t to know that the finish line gantry (that the bus became wedged under) is lowered at a certain time in the race. The incident highlights the importance role of contingency planning and risk management in fast-paced sporting events, where planning for the unexpected is critical.
With the 100th Tour de France having reached an end, focus has switched away from the unfortunate incident and onto winner Chris Froome of Team Sky, who came in just ahead of Colombian Nairo Quintana. Froome achieved a winning margin of four minutes and twenty seconds in the final stage, the biggest margin since Lance Armstrong’s six minutes on German Andreas Kloden in 2004. Kittel achieved three more stage wins, and is the top sprinter of this year’s Tour.