Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cycling: Dean labels 'selfie' problem a misunderstanding

Tejay van Garderen of the U.S., fourth from left with bandaged right leg, and stage winner Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey. Photo / AP
Tejay van Garderen of the U.S., fourth from left with bandaged right leg, and stage winner Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey. Photo / AP

New Zealand's most experienced Tour de France rider Julian Dean believes the 'selfie' problem on the current edition is more a misunderstanding of cycling etiquette in Britain than an epidemic in the sport.

Riders have lambasted fans for obstructing the peloton and threatening safety in pursuit of a snapshot at the scene.

Tejay van Garderen summed up the craze as "a dangerous mix of vanity and stupidity", Geraint Thomas described it as the "the new pain in the arse for riders" and suggested people "find a wall" and, before his exit, Alberto Contador said, "I'm just very thankful to have got through. It was an extremely nervous stage with so many spectators".

The issue appears to have evaporated in the last fortnight after crossing into France.
Dean, who now works as assistant sporting director for Orica-GreenEdge, has observed the crowds from a team vehicle for the past two tours rather than a bike.

He said the problem might have been exacerbated by holding the first three stages in England where spectators were less familiar with the protocols which have developed hosting 101 editions of the race in France.

"It's a double-edged sword because one of the biggest attractions of cycling is that fans can reach out and touch the riders going up a mountain pass," Dean said. "There are few sports where you can get as close to big stars. It becomes difficult when someone gets too close and struggles to get out of the way in time.

"Riders understand that is a big attraction and the majority of time it is OK. The risks might not be as bad as television makes out because there are generally police motorbikes in front of the riders.

"I think it was more of an issue in the UK because the public are not as accustomed to road racing and they got a bit over-excited compared to continental Europeans. Ninety per cent of people move out of the way at the right time and others follow suit."

Australian-owned Orica-GreenEdge sat 18th of 22 teams going into stage 13. Dean said they'd failed to achieve some of their targets in the early UK stages but had some remaining ambitions.

"We're not a big team with a 'general classification' riding budget but I'm sure we can pull off a stage win before it finishes. One aim will be [Sunday's 222km flat] stage into Nimes which can be particularly windy. Our guys are good in that sort of stuff. We'll also be gunning for the individual time trial on the second-to-last day."

Dean rates Astana's Vincenzo Nibali the strongest prospect to take overall general classification honours, especially after Team Sky's Richie Porte dropped out of contention.

"Nibali has looked good from the outset, especially on the cobblestones, and he's previously won the tours of Spain and Italy. He knows the business and has a good team around him."

- Herald on Sunday

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