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Pressure mounts on UCI after weekend of horror crashes

Joe Robinson
17 Aug 2020

Rider protests and avoidable crashes sour excellent weekend of racing

Pressure is mounting on the UCI after crashes and rider protests soured what was otherwise an exciting and unpredictable weekend of racing.

Crashes were prevalent in both the final stages of the Criterium du Dauphiné and Saturday's one-day classic Il Lombardia and while some were just racing incidents, others were easily avoidable.

On the penultimate stage of the Dauphiné, Saturday's 148.5km ride from Ugine to Megeve, race leader Primoz Roglic and Jumbo-Visma teammate Steven Kruisjwijk both eventually abandoned after crashing. Bora-Hansgrohe duo Emmanuel Buchmann and Gregor Muhlburger also withdrew following crashes on the same descent of the Col de Plan Bois.

Post-race, Tom Dumoulin commented on the nature of the descent, explaining his anger at the route.

'It was a disgrace that that descent was in a race,' Dumoulin said. 'The whole descent was really tricky but the first two or three kilometres were full of gravel, potholes, bumps in the road, 15% drops down… this downhill should never be in a race.'

Meanwhile, in Italy, 20-year-old Remco Evenepoel sustained a fractured pelvis after a horrifying crash that saw the Deceuninck-QuickStep rider catapulted over a bridge on the downhill of the Muro di Surmano, a descent that riders have highlighted as being questionably dangerous in the past.

Less than 40km later, German champion Max Schachmann then suffered a broken collarbone after colliding with a non-race vehicle that had found its way on to the course and appeared to veer across his path on a descent.

The amalgamation of incidents across the weekend, and the lingering memory of the Fabio Jakobsen's crash at the recent Tour of Poland, has given cause for action.

Firstly, it was stern words from Jumbo-Visma manager Richard Plugge who told Dutch broadcaster NOS the peloton no longer had faith in the UCI.

'I have talked about this with other team leaders and we all say, we cannot continue to expose our riders to danger. We no longer have confidence in the controls that the UCI does,' explained Plugge.

'It just has to be different. Our helmet is tested 1,000 times, but at a race, the UCI is quick to say: it will be. That’s not okay. For example, there must be special conditions for the last kilometre with a bunch sprint, but also how barriers must be placed along the course.

'We hope that these can be introduced for next season. A company can then say to the UCI: it must be better, this is not good enough. That way problems can be solved because it simply has to be safer for our riders.'

The rider's union, the CPA, then followed up on Plugge's comments by organising a neutralisation of the first 10km of the descent of the fifth and final stage of the Dauphiné, issuing a statement that questioned the UCI.

'At this year’s Criterium du Dauphiné, the riders, together with the CPA, have asked to neutralise the first 10km of descent of the fifth stage of the French race, saying that it is too dangerous and mentioning what happened at yesterday’s fourth stage,' the statement read.

'The riders want to send a clear signal of protest to both the organisers and to the UCI referring to the serious crashes and accidents that have occurred in the recent races, asking for greater attention to their safety.

'The CPA asks the UCI and all stakeholders of cycling to set up a round table to start the revision of the regulations to get a clear feedback in terms of prevention and sanctions towards the race organisers. The purpose of this is to protect the physical integrity of the riders and to allow them to carry out their work in greater safety.'

At the time of writing, the UCI's only comment on the weekend's racing was confirmation that an investigation had been launched into Schachmann's crash at Il Lombardia and that the UCI 'will consider lodging a complaint with the Disciplinary Commission against the event organiser RCS Sport'.

The UCI offered no comment on the Evenepoel incident, besides best wishes, and has yet to speak on the safety concerns expressed at Stage 1 of the Tour of Poland, instead only referring Jumbo-Visma sprinter Dylan Groenewegen to the disciplinary commission.

With less than two weeks until the start of the Tour de France, it remains the hope of everyone that the necessary changes can begin to take place.

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