I was there,and this happened few hundreds yards before my crossing on the line.Therefore, it would be unfair for me to explain this and also because I feel a quite passionate about the accident.
Therefore an anonymous rider that was in the pack writes to us to understand.
There appears to be gross misinformation and interpretation going rampant on global social media about what happened at the Yunnan Gran Fondo Day four spectacular crash. This is a comment in the attempt to shed light on what actually happened in China and for the record, it could happen to any organiser in the world. Something similar had happened in Texas racing in the past where the lead group and chase group go separate ways on the race course, although not on the same scale in Dali. First, lets correct some facts. There were allegations that the lead car went the wrong way and that the organiser, Nordic Ways, deny fault. Both are un-true and come from people interviewed that were not even at the race. It seems that most of the Western media, including road.cc just copies the story released by China Press Agency Xinhua without verifying any of the facts including misquoting the name of the event. The statement that 17 cyclists were hospitalised as a result of that crash is also incorrect. There were many crashes, as is normal in bike racing, during the high speed stage and those riders went to the hospital. It is quite common for riders in China to be taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Where is the investigative journalism in the sport of cycling? Are journalists in the sport just seeking sensationalism without checking facts? It was unfortunate that the local Chinese media based their reports on testimonies provided by people who had not even witnessed the crash accident and never bothered to verify claims with the race director or relevant people in the organisation. This has led to Western media picking this up and re-publishing; thus creating the social media storm we are witnessing now.
There was no doubt that the local organisation made a mistake with the final corner that led the lead group riders to take the wrong side of the road. It was also announced immediately after the crash that damages of any kind would be compensated. This shows that Nordic Ways was taking responsibility for the incident, so the claim that the organisers refused to take the blame is ludicrous. It should also be remembered that a number of riders from the lead group said afterwards “as a rider you also need to keep using your head”.
As it happens, I was part of the lead group contesting the stage and now will offer my view on what happened in those last few moments of the 125km stage around the ErHai Lake of Dali.
Firstly, this type of crash with riders from opposing directions hitting each other like Spartacus on bikes is perhaps a one-of-a-kind. As far as I know this type of crash had never happened before in the history of cycling and, statistically speaking, it is highly unlikely it will never happen again. It also could happen to any organiser and not just because it is in China. There seems to be an undercurrent of borderline racist comments happening on social media channels without any basis. These are people who have never before raced in China, perhaps never even been to China on a visit. China does actually put on fantastic events and they are run with a high safety record. If you have raced in other countries like Philippines or other South East Asian places, you will understand how chaotic it can be.
Think about it for a second, a peloton sprinting in full flight in the wrong direction to the finish-line and colliding with a second group of racers sprinting in the correct direction, makes for potentially a nasty fatal crash. Fortunately, all riders made it through relatively unscathed despite nearly 20 riders hitting the deck crashing into riders head on. The final corner in question should have been marked and marshalled by local police officials. It transpired that the two assigned workers for the left-hand corner that led to the finishing straight, approx 800m before the finish-line, bungled the corner. They did not follow instructions given to them and they closed off the corner on the outside with tape instead of the inside. The workers had also placed bright orange cones but spaced too far apart, thus in the heat of the action the lead group followed the first rider and thats how the large group went down the wrong side of the road. Further confusing riders was the red banner on the right side of the road next to the correct banner.
I truly don’t know what was going on in their minds when the decision was made to do the U-turn and sprint again when it was crystal clear that the riders went down the wrong finishing chute?
Perhaps it was desperation for a result and thus prize money that is on offer? What happened was truly the worst possible way to crash. There was a small group of five riders contesting the sprint amongst themselves (they had been gapped off the front group due to the crash with 4km to go). The rider in red buried himself and did not look up during his final 150m sprint. When he did look up, it was too late; he had smashed into the first rider also sprinting to the finish-line. It was miraculous that all riders came out of the crash with minor injuries; the damage was restricted to one broken collar-bone and one broken finger plus plenty of bruises.