Former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins has suggested that riders unhappy about the dangerous conditions on display during stage 1 of the race in Nice should contemplate retirement and that there has been a growing lack of respect within the peloton for several years.
The second comment is one that is rolled out every few years by leading statesmen in the sport as they get older and closer to the end of their careers, but Wiggins said: “Riders are willing to take more risks in order to get that win, but it’s a tough sport and if you don’t like it, probably retire.”
Wiggins was speaking during his daily slot on Eurosport after a day that saw the peloton take control and neutralize a large portion of the stage. The stage was raced in heavy rain, which made the tight and technical roads around Nice incredibly slippery. Several riders compared the experience to like being on ice. Three riders – Rafael Valls, Philippe Gilbert and John Degenkolb – sustained race-ending injuries, while the entire stage was punctuated with rider crashes.
Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) had some choice words for the sport’s governing body on Saturday evening, telling Wielerflits, “Apparently it wasn’t dangerous and spectacular enough for the UCI. In my opinion, the last crash is their responsibility.”
A sense of calm only came about after Gesink’s teammate, Tony Martin, moved to the front of the peloton and issued instructions for his colleagues to slow down. That warning was heeded by almost the entire peloton, bar Astana, who clipped off the front only to then see their team leader Miguel Angel Lopez slide into a lamppost. He was relatively unharmed but Pavel Sivakov and Julian Alaphilippe were among the fallers. Even after racing re-started there was a serious crash in the closing kilometres, with Thibaut Pinot one of the most high-profile victims.
“It was really ridiculous,” continued Gesink. “And then the UCI just let it go. We’ve seen enough dangerous moments in the past weeks. This was an opportunity for the UCI to do something right by us. We can make it as difficult as we want for another 20 days, but they still won’t do anything.
Wiggins didn’t refer to the governing body but talked about the riders within the peloton, saying that athletes had begun to take more and more risks over the years.
“The road is only so wide and it’s the riders that make the racing dangerous, you know, riders. Mark Cavendish has spoken a lot about it the last few years, the sort of lack of respect in the peloton now, in terms of [how] no one gets given an inch, even if you’re Peter Sagan. And racing is becoming more competitive and riders are willing to take more risks in order to get that win. It’s a tough sport and if you don’t like it, I mean, probably retire,” Wiggins said.
“That’s the long and short of it. I mean, as you get older, you don’t want to crash anymore. You want to go home to your kids and not covered in scars. It’s a tough sport. Life’s tough, you know.”