Australia’s Team BikeExchange sports director Gene Bates has been expelled from the Giro d’Italia after knocking Belgian rider Pieter Serry off his bike on the final climb of the brutal, 162km stage six.
- The Team Bike Exchange car hit Pieter Serry from behind, knocking him off his bike
- Serry was able to continue up the final climb to the first summit finish of this year’s race
- Australian general classification hope Jai Hindley lost over two minutes on the final climb
The Deceuninck-Quick Step rider was 3 kilometres into the final climb of the day when the BikeExchange car inexplicably ran into the back of him with 12km to go in the stage.
The BikeExchange car had pulled alongside the race organiser’s vehicle and appeared to be passing something into that car when it plowed into Serry, who had dropped off the back of the peloton after working for teammate Remco Evenepoel.
Serry remained on the ground, stunned, as staff members from the BikeExchange team immediately exited the car and went to his aid, disentangling him from his bike.
He eventually got back onto his bike and, after furiously remonstrating with the BikeExchange team, continued up the 15.5km climb towards San Giacomo, the first mountain-top finish of this year’s race.
In a tweet, the Deceuninck-Quick Step team described the incident as a “heart in the mouth moment”, but reported after the stage that the 32-year-old was “OK” and had completed the stage.
Serry himself tweeted after the race to say that he was “feeling OK” and had been “impressed” by the messages of support, including from Team BikeExchange.
The incident marked the second time this season that Serry has crashed as a result of an interaction with a race vehicle.
The Belgian rider was forced to abandon the Volta a Catalunya in March after crashing with a race motorbike.
After the race, Team BikeExchange tweeted to say that Bates had spoken directly to Serry to apologise and that they were happy to see him finish the stage.
It is not the first time a vehicle from the Australian team has made headlines at a grand tour.
In 2013, when the team was known as Orica-GreenEDGE, its bus got stuck under the finish banner on stage one of the 100th edition of the Tour de France, resulting in the stage finish being moved due to the imminent arrival of the speeding peloton.
The team was fined 2,000 Swiss francs ($2,900) for that incident.
On this occasion though, the race jury expelled Bates from the remainder of the three-week tour, fining Matt White, who was a passenger in the car, 2,000 Swiss francs.
The expulsion is bad news for its British leader Simon Yates, who currently sits 10th in general classification.
The British rider is 49 seconds back after failing to follow an emphatic late attack from former Tour de France winner Egan Bernal.
In direct contrast to stage five’s day of success for Australia’s Caleb Ewan, day six turned into something of a nightmare for the Australians in Italy.
Australia’s pre-race general classification hope Jai Hindley also lost heaps of time on the leaders after failing to match the acceleration on the final climb, finishing 2 minutes, 38 seconds behind stage winner Gino Mäder.
Hindley, who finished a surprise second last year, is now 25th in the overall standings, 3 minutes, 29 seconds behind new race leader Attila Valter.
Valter leads 21-year-old sensation Evenepoel, who sits 11 seconds back, with Team Ineos Grenadier’s Colombian rider Bernal ominously placed in third, 16 seconds behind the leader.
Friday’s seventh stage, a 181km jaunt from Notaresco to Termoli on the Adriatic Coast, could prove to be another day for the sprinters, if they are able to negotiate a couple of lumps in the closing kilometres.