BMC Racing Team's Philippe Gilbert finished fifth Tuesday on the longest stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco after the race started with a five-minute protest over rider safety.
A crash near the finish of Monday's stage injured several riders, including BMC Racing Team's Darwin Atapuma and Peter Stetina. It happened as the peloton sprinted past meter-high metal poles topped with orange traffic cones in the final 400 meters. Stetina broke four ribs and his right leg in two places and is expected to be sidelined several months. Atapuma suffered a deep cut on his left knee but was able to start Stage 2.
BMC Racing Team's Brent Bookwalter, who is a member of the Association of North American Professional Road Cyclists (ANAPRC), said the conditions of the final kilometer were not acceptable for a WorldTour race.
"It was important today to make it known that the riders will not accept 'good enough' from the race organizations and the UCI in regard to rider safety," Bookwalter said. "The protest was not initiated by any one team or any one rider – but rather by the CPA (riders union), which exists to protect the riders' interests. And safety is a big one of them.
"While the protest was good for awareness, it actually does little to enforce accountability from those who are charged with keeping us safe when it comes to avoidable dangers like yesterday. For that, we need every rider to become involved and engaged on the topic and for the CPA to aggressively pursue accountability from the races and the UCI. We cannot forget what happened yesterday. The sport deserves better and is capable of far better."
Fabio Felline (Trek Factory Racing) won the 175.4-kilometer race ahead of Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE), who kept the race lead. Gilbert is the best-placed BMC Racing Team rider, in 13th overall, while teammates Darwin Atapuma, Rohan Dennis, Samuel Sánchez and Tejay van Garderen are also on the same time as the race leader.
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