A pro cyclist who was forced to abandon the women’s elite road race at the UCI World Championships in Glasgow on Sunday 13th August has lashed out at Shimano after claiming that she was denied neutral service assistance after puncturing. Through a PR company, Shimano has now responded claiming that the staff in charge of its neutral service car in question "strictly adhered to the race convoy rules."
Christine Majerus, who was representing Luxembourg in the race, hit out at the company in a post to Instagram, in which she urged her followers, “Don’t buy Shimano.”
The 36 year old, who has won 14 national road titles and 17 in the time trial, said in her post on the social network: “If I knew I would have stayed home. Terrible carbon footprint for only 10kms of racing. 2023 just keeps on being a terrible season with injuries, sickness and bad luck. Yesterday was just one of those days (again).”
She wrote that while in normal circumstances, getting a puncture at the start of a race wouldn’t be a major problem, the nature of yesterday’s race meant that for her, the “race was done before it even started.”
Majerus said that one problem was a “(too) huge peloton” – 203 riders lined up at the start in Loch Lomond – with another being the complications in terms of support vehicles due to it being an event contested by national teams rather than trade teams.
More than 70 countries were represented, with three riders from Luxembourg taking part, and its support vehicle was shared with a trio of riders from Ukraine – one of whom had crashed shortly beforehand, meaning the car was not available to provide help to Majerus when she needed it.
Her main ire, however, was reserved for the Shimano neutral service car, and she claimed that its staff had ignored her request for a wheel change.
The Japan-based components company has provided neutral service in the sport since 2001 at a number of major races including, since 2021, the Tour de France after taking over duties at that race from Mavic, and its blue cars are a distinctive sight in the peloton.
Besides wheel and bike changes when team cars are not available for whatever reason, its mechanics also provide food and drink to riders when needed.
But in much the same way that you only see insurance covered in the press when a policyholder goes to the media to complain that a claim has been refused, neutral service only seems to attract the headlines when something goes wrong.
One high profile example involving Shimano include Cadel Evans, who was leading the 2009 Vuelta when a painfully slow neutral service wheel change saw him lose time to the eventual winner, Alejandro Valverde.
More recently, in last month’s Tour de France, the Bora-Hansgrohe rider Nils Politt was caught on camera showing his frustration when, after his chain snapped while he was in the break, he tried out three separate bikes offered to him by the neutral service mechanic none of which was suitable due to a combination of the frame sizes being too small for him and the pedal system being incompatible with his shoes. Eventually, he had to wait for his team car to arrive – by which time the main peloton, never mind the break, was way up the road ahead of him.
In her Instagram post regarding her travails yesterday, Majerus wrote: “I usually don’t complain openly when things don’t go the way they could and anyway who knows how things could have turned out and that’s absolutely not my point.
“Mostly I just give my best and I get what I deserve for that. I can live with failing as long as I was able to try. Yesterday just felt extremely unfair because I couldn’t even try.
“I am aware that not everyone can have car number 1 and that no other nation was willing to give me service (thanks Switzerland at least they considered it but then … no) but I always thought that that’s what the ugly blue cars are there for.
“But apparently they are just there for advertising and adding another 5+ cars to the already too long convoy. Why are you there if you don’t help?
“Once I got a bike change I knew it was over,” Majerus continued. “The helicopters were miles away, I was out of the convoy and only coming back to dropped riders. I rode until the jury took us out and that’s it.”
She added a string of apologies including to her team mates and staff members, her coach, and even her niece – “president of my little fan club who now needs to refund its members (only 2 so not too bad)” – before concluding her post with the words, “Don’t buy Shimano.”
Yesterday’s race was won by Belgium’s Lotte Kopecky, who when not representing her country rides for the same SD Worx team as Majerus, who was a member of its line-up at last month’s Tour de France Femmes Avec Zwift last month, won by their team-mate Demi Vollering, second yesterday – and which is supplied by SRAM, which at least means that her heartfelt post won’t lead to any awkward conversations with equipment sponsors.
road.cc contacted Shimano Europe for comment, and while not responding directly, a PR company sent a statement to us on the behalf of a Shimano spokesperson in response to Majerus' criticisms.
The spokesperson said: “Shimano prides itself on quality and professional services during all levels of competition. As such, Shimano wishes to clarify that the neutral service car in question strictly adhered to the race convoy rules.
"The explicit request of the President of UCI’s Commisaires’ Panel that it should remain in position behind the Jury President’s car at all times was followed, should it be required for the race finale.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.