The Orica-GreenEDGE bus driver who crashed into the finish line gantry on stage one has apologised after enduring a nightmare first day on the job.
That prompted race organisers to move the finish forward to the three kilometre mark, before reinstating the original finish line after Atxa managed to free the bus and remove it from the course.
However, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) later said the confusion in the peloton contributed to a huge crash which ended his chances of victory and brought down a host of riders, including Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff).
Atxa, who was pictured with his head in his hands after the incident, said: “I don’t know whether I’m famous or infamous. I’m feeling terrible but it’s all over and there was nobody injured in the finish.
“This was my first day driving the bus so it’s not a good start but I hope they have faith in me. I tried to sleep but I had a lot on my mind and I hope today will go okay.
“The team were kind and sympathetic and I’m grateful for all the nice things they said, and what else can I say but I’m sorry.”
Orica-GreenEDGE have been fined 2,000 Swiss francs (£1,400) by race organisers for arriving late in Bastia and for “not respecting the timetable put in place for auxiliary team vehicles arriving at the stage finish”.
However, Orica-GreenEDGE directeur sportif Matt White insists Atxa was only following instructions when he struck the gantry.
“The bus was led under the finish gantry, and we took it for granted that there was enough clearance,” said White.
“We’ve had this bus since we started the team, and it’s the same bus we took to the Tour last year.
“Our bus driver was told to move forward and became lodged under the finish gantry. He followed all instructions in the process that followed thanks to the hard work by ASO that allowed him to remove the bus before the finish.
“It was the best possible outcome given the situation.”