The Tour de France ground to a halt for one minute for a half-baked protest against the current safety rules in the sport.
Reports swirled around before the race that the peloton would make a strong statement against the route that saw a spate of crashes on Monday.
However, the bunch initially seemed reluctant to stop riding with France’s Julian Alaphilippe and his Deceuninck–QuickStep team among those pushing it on the front at the start of Stage 4.
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The protest only came about when Andre Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) weaved through to force the protest after a kilometre of racing.
After a minute’s pause, and no clear message from those on the road, the race resumed with Alaphilippe quickly appearing on his own at the front in the green jersey.
“If you don’t know anything about cycling, you don’t know anything about what’s happened, and you just take a look at the image you just saw, I think it’s pretty clear you’re not going to react to that ‘protest’ because it wasn’t strong enough. It didn’t promote any clear message,” said Rob Hatch on Eurosport commentary.
“We don’t have any idea what happened. I’m afraid it makes the sport look a little Mickey Mouse, doesn’t it.”
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Highlights: Thomas, Roglic, Pogacar crash as Merlier takes Stage 3
Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) were among those to crash on Stage 3 in separate incidents.
Ewan collided with Peter Sagan in the sprint finish and was forced to abandon with a broken collarbone, Thomas dislocated his shoulder but continued and Roglic crossed the line with grim-looking road rash on his left shoulder and left thigh.
Several riders have criticised the final kilometres on Monday’s run to Pontivy which saw the peloton tackle narrow technical roads, while some also asked for the GC timings to be taken earlier in the stage to allow a smaller group of sprinters to contest the last kilometres and reduce the risk of crashes.
However the protest hinted at a divide in the peloton, fuelling Brian Smith’s belief that there is no unity in cycling.
“We need all the jerseys to the front, they all have to come to the front and show unity. They’re not,” he said as the riders awkwardly stood around.
“Greipel was the person who organised that. So if you are one of the top riders in the race, the yellow jersey, get to the front now and show unity.
“It’s not happening and that’s what we’re talking about. There’s no unity within the peloton.”
While crashes did litter the menu on Stage 3, only two – the one that Pogacar was caught up in with 4km remaining and the Ewan crash in the final metres – occurred in the much-maligned final part of the stage.
“It’s a nuanced discussion. It’s not black and white, it’s not cut and dry,” added Hatch.
“If you analyse each incident, you can’t say that the route was the cause of every single crash yesterday. Maybe the riders have to shoulder some of the blame and I feel uncomfortable saying that because I haven’t been there and I don’t want to give sermons out.”
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