Motorcyclist Koen Haedens has been kicked off the Tour de France. He was the man who carried Getty Images photographer, Michael Steele in the race convoy. The race jury made the decision on Wednesday after the Belgian’s motorbike tangled with Saxo Bank rider, Nicki Sorensen.
Cycling Weekly spoke to Haedens, who asked we not quote him to avoid further problems. He’s covered 10 editions of the Tour de France and hopes to be allowed back in the race in the coming days.
He was passing the peloton in the fifth stage to Cap Fréhel when the incident occurred. Around 75 kilometres to race, he moved ahead on the right side of the road behind four other motorbikes when he heard riders shouting behind.
Haedens looked in his rear-view mirrors, but didn’t see anything. Steele eventually spotted Sorensen’s bike hooked to their motorbike and Haedens slowed down. With Saxo Bank’s general manager, Bjarne Riis, they freed the bike. Haedens looked for the rider, but learnt Sørensen had already received another bike and was racing to re-join the group.
Sorensen eventually finished with a group of 15, 4-29 minutes behind winner Mark Cavendish.
“I was just riding my bike, then the moto comes and runs me over,” Sorensen said immediately after the stage. “I heard he’s disqualified. I find that just.”
Haedens spoke with Riis, who said that his Saxo Bank team didn’t file a complaint. After the stage today to Lisieux, he apologised directly to Sorensen.
Getty Images went ahead today without Steele or another photographer on a motorbike. It instead was free to cover the race at the start, finish and on the side of the road.
In addition to the Tour de France, for the last 15 years, Haedens has covered the spring classics. The races are on much tighter and un-even roads and have given Haedens his experience. When he’s not piloting photographers, he works at a metal shop in Belgium’s northern Flanders region.
Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index