Philippe Gilbert, Matteo Trentin say barriers, vehicles in bunch are top safety priority for peloton

Classics veteran Gilbert chastises colleagues for not taking more active role in safety negotiations.

Photo: James Startt

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Veteran riders Philippe Gilbert and Matteo Trentin have chastised their fellow pros for not playing a more active role in a recent push for enhanced safety measures.

Both were part of months-long negotiations to improve safety in the peloton going into the 2021 season that involved all the established stakeholders in the elite men’s peloton.

An internal war among the bunch, however, with a breakaway union effort starting up in 2021, sees a fracture among the ranks. Gilbert and Trentin were active participants in the months-long talks via the CPA, the UCI-sanctioned rider’s group, but Gilbert complained that few of his fellow colleagues were engaged in the process.

“Only two of us found it worthwhile to go, Trentin and myself,” Gilbert told Het Nieuwsblad. “The CPA regularly asks riders to participate in the meetings, but usually no one comes.

“It is not for my benefit that I am participating, rather it’s for the riders who are 20 years old who should be going,” Gilbert continued. “They complain about safety in the media, but that’s not much use. If you want to change something as a rider, you have to know when to open your mouth at the appropriate time.”

Some riders have long complained that the CPA doesn’t do enough to represent the peloton’s larger interests, so much so that there is an effort to create a new rider’s group — called the Riders Union — which is already reaching out to riders to sign on going into 2021.

Gilbert and Trentin, from Belgium and Italy, respectively, decided to work within the established groups inside the CPA, which has a spot at the table on the CCP (Conseil du Cyclisme Professionnel).

Other members during the safety talks this year included race organizers and teams.

Earlier this month, the UCI revealed a series of new measures to improve rider safety. Talks accelerated following a string of high-profile incidents, including the near-fatal crash of Fabio Jakobsen at the Tour de Pologne this summer.

Gilbert and Trentin were among the most familiar names within the peloton to take part in the behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Gilbert said two things stood out from the rider’s perspective — barriers and vehicles inside the race caravan.

“There was a lot of talk of barriers and vehicles in the races,” said Gilbert, recounting details of the negotiations.

“The barriers often don’t have the right profile or are placed too close to the finish line. The riders want them at least 600m to go,” Gilbert said. “We also talked about vehicles in the races. Due to my injury, I watched a lot of races on TV, and often times I was wondering if I was watching a bike race or a MotoGP.”

Trentin, speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, echoed Gilbert’s comments that barriers and race vehicles present the most critical danger in the bunch.

“Security must be the priority in 2021,” Trentin told the Italian sports daily. “We have made suggestions and things are going in the right direction. The rules were old, and were never updated as the sport evolved. Unlike in other sports, like Formula 1 or MotoGP, or even speed skating, they’ve all been much better [at safety] than cycling has been.”

Like Gilbert, Trentin said the top priorities among the riders is the quality and placement of barriers, and the seemingly high number of vehicles moving in the race caravan.

“The barriers need to be safer near the finish, and so if you hit them, you don’t end up getting injured,” Trentin said. “They simply cannot be only to separate us from the public. And there are too many vehicles, oftentimes passing too close to us during the races.”

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