Rider safety: No sprinter lanes, more controls

UCI unveils new safety measures.

Photo: Christophe Petit - Pool/Getty Images

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There won’t be any track-style lanes in the finishing sprint, but there will be more emphasis on route inspection and awareness.

That’s the main takeaway of the UCI’s latest round of several new safety measures unveiled Thursday, to be rolled out in 2021.

The measures, which include a new, full-time “safety czar” as well as other measures, come on the heels of several high-profile crashes in 2020 and raising concerns about rider safety.

Backers of the new moves were effusive about the process, but some will wonder if the steps go far enough to improve and ensure rider safety in the sometimes fluid and changing road conditions.

“As professional rider directly impacted by these new measures, I am extremely pleased to have been involved and listened to throughout the consultation process led by the UCI,” said former world champion Philippe Gilbert. “This allowed me to directly express our concerns on important topics such as barrier design and ensuring race convoy vehicles are operated safely around riders.”

Former world champion Philippe Gilbert (left) welcomes the new safety initiatives by the UCI. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Following months of study among a working group that included members of the UCI, race organizers, teams, and riders, a broad outline includes the creation of a new safety manager within the UCI as well as enhanced safety steps with signs, marshals, fencing, and traffic flow within the race caravan, including helicopters flying too close to the racecourse.

The new safety push also puts more responsibility on race organizers, teams, and riders. Races will be required to have a designed safety manager for each competition, while teams and riders will see more restrictions on where they can toss water bottles or how they can descend steep mountain passes. It was not confirmed that the sometimes controversial top-tube tuck, when riders pedal while straddling their top tube, will be banned.

“As team owners and employers, the absolute priority is to have the safest race environment for our riders to perform,” said Iwan Spekenbrink, President of the Association Internationale des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels (AIGCP). “In addition, a safe race environment is essential to convey the best image of cycling to fans, society, and the various commercial partners. … We are very much looking forward to seeing these principles implemented, as well as to the frequent assessment of their implementation.”

According to the UCI, the new safety measures include:

  • creation of a safety manager within the UCI; focusing on safety and the supervision of safety at events on the UCI International Road Calendar
  • reinforcement of the obligation of all event organizers to appoint and train an Event Safety Manager
  • review of major incidents during the past five years, with the collaboration of an external service provider with expertise in data collection and analysis, to create of a database of incidents and accidents to better target actions to be taken by the UCI for in-race safety
  • introduction of a tool enabling organizers to benefit from an evaluation of risks in the proposed route several weeks before the start of the event; this tool will enable the UCI and organizers to target their actions to ensure race route security and identify potential risks before the events
  • enhancement and modernization of signalization used along the race route
  • improvement of communication with riders about important decisions, as well as the creation of a more detailed protocol dealing with the neutralization of events
  • improved security in delicate sectors, especially the finish zone and its barricade lines, with the establishment, led by experts, of a set of standards for barriers used in the final of events, in particular for bunch sprints; such standards necessarily being established in consultation with stakeholders and taking into account the characteristics of modern professional cycling
  • stronger regulations concerning potentially dangerous conduct of riders, such as throwing drink bottles on the road or within the peloton (that may pose a danger to following riders), and taking up dangerous positions on the bike (especially in descents)
  • review of the regulation regarding the discarding of waste and objects outside dedicated zones, with appropriate sanctions
  • better supervision when it comes to the use of equipment by teams that could cause varying problems (for example disc brakes and bottle cages); the UCI Equipment Commission will be asked to work on these specific subjects with industry experts and the sport’s different stakeholders
  • stricter directives for the conduct of different members of the race convoy (motorcycle riders, vehicle drivers and also television helicopter pilots)
  • the establishment of a logbook which will enable the monitoring of drivers’ experience and eventually lead to the application of a license points system for drivers in the race convoy
  • the establishment of a more detailed and structured briefing for all drivers before the start of each event, which will be jointly led by the President of the Commissaires Panel and the organizer.

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