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Finish of Étoile de Bessèges stage sparks safety concerns

The relatively small French stage race of Étoile de Bessèges is getting a lot more attention from cycling fans this year as it is one of the few races going ahead during the early season.

This increased focus on the 2.1-ranked race has resulted increased scrutiny after stage two in the Gard départment of south east France.

A number of professional riders and fans aimed criticism at the placement of the race photographers after the finish line, who had been positioned close to the actual line, meaning the riders had to deviate immediately after finishing at high speed.

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British rider, Abby Mae Parkinson tweeted: “Press taking up half the road right after the line. What catastrophic accident has to take place before change happens?!”

Parkinson shared pictures of the finish and European champion, Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos), swerving to avoid crashing.

This came just moments after a huge crash on the exit of the final roundabout, which was placed at about 400 metres from the finish line, bringing down several sprinters including Edvald Boasson Hagen (Total Direct Energie) and Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix).

There we a few other crashes earlier in the race that saw the likes of Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) hit the deck as well before the race headed into a series of very narrow village streets that had a multitude of hazards.

They included a bin that was partially in the road, a pedestrian crossing fence that was not padded, as well as a spectator stretching out his feet onto the course, pulling them back just before the peloton flew through.

But some have pointed out the relatively small size of the race, which relies on the help of volunteers, as pointed out by cycling writer, Peter Cossins.

Cossins said: “Lots of people knocking the [Étoile de] Bessèges race organisation after the stage today. Worth remembering that this race had just three WorldTour teams last year and has 11 this, and is operating on a shoestring, dependent on the goodwill of volunteers. It needs building up, not knocking down.”

This is the second French race in a week to be criticised due to its photographer placement with GP La Marseillaise being the other.

In that it was the winner, Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Ag2r-Citroën) had to swerve into Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), almost causing a crash.

Cycling Weekly has approached the organisers of Étoile de Bessèges for comment.

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