Lampre shoe move blamed for crash
A decision by Alessandro Petacchi to hand his shoe covers to fellow Lampre teammate Davide Vigano was being cited as the possible reason for the biggest crash in this year's Tour de France.
A mass pile-up 26 kilometres from the finish line of Friday's sixth stage to Metz, which happened on a downhill straight as the peloton travelled at 70 km/h, led to a total of 12 retirements ahead of stage seven on Saturday.
Crashes are not uncommon in the Tour de France, especially in the first week when many teams try to ride at the front of the peloton to keep out of danger and limit time losses.
And while some riders are criticised for amateur racing behaviour, the least false move can often cause mayhem.
Garmin team chief Jonathan Vaughters said Lampre's move may have been the biggest contributing factor to the crash which forced the retirement of two of his riders, Canadian Ryder Hesjedal and South African Robert Hunter.
"I don't know, but we stayed with Lampre last night and they said Davide Vigano was taking a pair of shoe covers from Petacchi and he had his hands off his (handle) bars when he was putting them in his back pocket," said Vaughters.
"Then, a little gust of wind or something, some touched wheels and off we went.
"It was a really unfortunate moment because there was a strong tailwind, it was on a downhill, everyone's packed like sardines because there's 25 km to go, it was super nervous, and they were going so fast at that point."
Vigano was one of the 12 race casualties but Vaughters refused to blame the Italian.
"I certainly wouldn't say it's his fault... he had his hands off his bars, putting stuff in his pocket and you wobble a little bit.
"But you can imagine what it would be like to just jump out of your car at 70 km per hour."
Britain's Chris Froome, who is set to play a key role for Sky leader Bradley Wiggins in the key mountain stages, said Vigano could not be blamed.
"That's quite normal. If Brad has an extra piece of extra clothing he doesn't want he will give it to one of us, and we've got to take it," Froome told AFP.
"Maybe it wasn't the best idea of Petacchi to do that when we've going at 70 km/h downhill but you can't blame him for taking it, that's his job."
Froome, the Nairobi-born Tour of Spain runner-up in 2011, believes the radio earpieces used by car-bound team directors to communicate with their riders are also to blame.
He believes more teams asking more riders to move up to the front of the peloton has caused a general feeling of nervousness in the peloton.
But the Briton says the hype and pressure of the Tour has led some riders to forget some of the golden rules of bike racing.
"I think it's also a problem of general respect among us. Some of the things you see happening, I wouldn't say it's acceptable," he added.
"Guys literally not giving a damn what they do to other guys, putting them literally off the road.
"That's just bike racing, although it doesn't happen in all bike races. But with the Tour and all the pressure and the hype, there's guys just taking risks."