July 5, 2010 / 6:41 PM / 9 years ago

Riders stage mini-protest by not sprinting to the line

SPA, Belgium (Reuters) - Tour de France riders staged a mini-protest on Monday after rain and an oil spill combined to make the roads ultra slippery on the 201-km second stage from Brussels.

Saxo Bank rider Fabian Cancellara (yellow jersey) of Switzerland gestures as the peloton crosses the finish line of the second stage of the Tour de France cycling race from Brussels to Spa, July 5, 2010. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

The main pack, headed by overall leader Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, decided not to sprint to the finish line in Spa to avoid the possibility of another incident after a massive crash earlier in the day.

“There is too much on the line,” said Lance Armstrong’s RadioShack team mate Chris Horner after the stage was won by Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel.

“It’s dangerous on the dry, more dangerous on the wet and sooner or later riders are going to protest. That’s what you saw today,” added American Horner.

Among the competitors who fell off their bikes in the crash on the descent of the col de Stockeu, 30-km from the finish, was Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck, one of Cancellara’s team leaders.

“There was something on the road and the finale today was just too much. I believe nobody wants to win the Tour thanks to the crash of another contender,” said Schleck.

Defending champion Alberto Contador said he was among the riders who decided to wait for Schleck and his brother Andy.

“As soon as I heard Andy was behind I ordered all my team mates to stop,” said the Spaniard who also fell off his bike.

“It was a gentlemen’s agreement,” added Contador’s Astana team manager Yvon Sanque.

Others riders, however, were not convinced the finish-line lull was necessary.

“Most people were just confused. We had a tough situation, with Cancellara up front and the Schlecks at the back,” said Armstrong who also fell.

“But these hills around here and the Ardennes are legendary, it’s part of cycling. Liege-Bastogne-Liege has been around for a hundred years and they do that on the snow. We can’t say that.

“For whatever reason the road was slippery and it’s by no means any fault of the organisers. It’s just bad luck,” added the seven-times champion.

Editing by Julien Pretot and Tony Jimenez

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