The UCI has pledged to improve the safety of riders following a number of high-profile crashes since WorldTour racing resumed at the start of the month, including Jumbo-Visma sprinter Dylan van Groenewegen sending the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider Fabio Jakobsen over the barriers at the Tour de Pologne and another rider from Jakobsen's team, Remco Evenepoel, crashing into a bridge at Il Lombardia and falling 20 feet into a ravine.
World cycling’s governing body said it was “delighted” that both the UCI WorldTour and UCI Women’s WorldTour season had been able to resume, adding that it “congratulates all involved for their thoroughness in implementing the health regulations that have enabled cycling to be one of the rare sports to have restarted its activities during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.”
However, it said it is “extremely concerned” over the issue of rider safety following a number of high-profile crashes this month, and that it “cannot tolerate the fact that the accidents over the last weeks have often been the result of non-respect of the safety regulations that apply to all players of professional road cycling.
“We note that certain fundamental safety measures are not respected even though new measures with the aim of improving rider safety at races were introduced at the UCI Management Committee meeting in January 2020 at the request of riders and in agreement with all parties – riders (CPA), organisers (AIOCC) and teams (AIGCP),” the UCI continued.
“Therefore, until the end of the season, the UCI will further reinforce its inspections before and during events, together with its Technical Advisers, with the aim of guaranteeing as far as possible the utmost safety of athletes.”
The UCI outlined a number of measures aimed at improving the safety of riders in recent years, including the extreme weather protocol, the appointment of technical advisers to UCI WorldTour and UCI Women’s WorldTour events, the implementation of guidelines for race convoy vehicle circulation and safe driving awareness courses, and disciplinary measures against riders who endanger competitors.
“Nevertheless, and in light of recent accidents, the UCI has decided to initiate a far-reaching reform of the safety conditions in conjunction with the riders, teams and organisers,” the governing body said.
“This work, which is already underway with permanent contact with cycling’s families, will aim to make an objective and shared assessment of the current situation, marked by the repetition of crashes endangering all riders, and introduce improvements which – in some cases – will be able to make use of new technologies.
“A reinforced system of sanctions may be considered in the case of non-respect of the regulations. The UCI would like to thank the riders, team managers, organisers and all those who spontaneously offered to collaborate to guarantee maximum safety in our sport.”
UCI President David Lappartient said: “The safety of riders is a priority for the Union Cycliste Internationale which considers this issue of the greatest importance.
“We are aware of the riders’ concerns over safety conditions as they go about their work and we are determined to take further steps to provide a strong and appropriate response.
“We extend our wishes for a quick recovery to all riders affected by the accidents, and we assure them, as well as the entire peloton, that the UCI, over and above the measures already undertaken at the beginning of the year, is working on new initiatives together with cycling’s players, to guarantee greater safety for all.”
The UCI’s pledge comes after the Jumbo-Visma rider Jos van Emden proposed 10 points that he said would improve rider safety.
Cyclingnews.com reports that in a column written for the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad last week, van Emden was scathing of the CPA, which represents pro riders.
“On paper there is a riders’ union, but in practice they do nothing for us," he said. “They are a bunch of puppets. They are paid by the UCI and do what the UCI wants them to do. I hardly know any riders who support the board of the CPA.
“If something goes wrong, they call for an investigation. You will never hear about that again. There are initiatives from the riders to implement changes or to come up with a new union, but we are being opposed from all sides.
“The UCI is not concerned with the safety of the riders,” he continued. “It appears that they are to the outside world, but don't look at their own mistakes and shortcomings. If they do come up with adjustments and rule changes to improve safety, it will take years.
“It's not that hard," he insisted. “There are plenty of measures you can come up with that you can implement immediately.”
Here is a summary of his 10 suggestions to improve rider safety:
Ex-riders should approve the course at each race, even if just the final 5km, and reject courses without accountability to the UCI.
The 3km rule [which provides that a crash in the final 3km of a stage sees all riders given the time of the group they were in when it happened] should always apply in flat stages.
Organisers should be required to publish the road book and precise route several weeks in advance and not shortly before the race.
Downhill finishes should be banned.
Air cushions should be placed in the final few hundred metres.
Banners should only be placed over the road if they can hang over its entire width and not protrude onto the race route.
Radio communication between riders and team cars should be banned, with riders still able to be in contact with the race jury so they can be warned of problems on the road and mechanicals.
A red and yellow card system should be introduced for riders who break the rules to ensure consistency of punishment.
Race moto riders should be required to wear numbers so members of the peloton can highlight specific issues and identify the rider concerned.
Immediate disqualification of any rider taking to a pavement or cycle path.
He continued: “These 10 points are not sacred. There are probably more or better measures to come up with. But it is a start. Implementing them would not take much time or money.
“Cycling is the best sport there is. It's also a dangerous sport that carries risks. But that does not mean that we have to accept all risks just like that.
“We want a voice, especially when it comes to safety. We are the ones who risk our body and limbs every day. We want a real trade union; we want real measures to remove unnecessary risks from our profession.
"We are cyclists, not circus animals,” van Emden added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.