North American pro team body ANAPRC protests dangerous conditions at Tour of the Basque Country

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Reacting after Peter Stetina (BMC Racing Team) crashed heavily in the finale of stage one of the Tour of the Basque Country, the rider union group the Association of North American Professional Road Cyclists (ANAPRC) has issued a demand that the race organisers and the UCI admit that they made errors in approving Monday’s course and clearly state what would be done to avoid such problems in the future.

Stetina was one of several riders who fell on the last corner, with the accident caused by meter-high metal poles on the road way which were simply topped with orange traffic cones rather than being removed or barriered off.

In the fall the American climber broke four ribs plus his right leg in two places. He is expected to be sidelined several months. Team-mate Darwin Atapuma suffered a deep cut on his left knee but was able to continue in Tuesday’s second stage.

“We are disappointed the race organizers and UCI officials at the Tour of the Basque Country created an unnecessarily dangerous course by allowing fixed obstacles to stand inside the last kilometre of stage one,” stated the representative body in a statement.

“ANAPRC will not rest until the responsible parties have been held accountable, and riders are assured that steps will be taken to prevent this in the future.”

It said that it didn’t expect all risks to be removed from pro cycling. However it said that it both expected and demanded that ‘sensible measures’ be taken to avoid crashes such as the one seen in Monday’s finale.

“The race organization could have taken any number of measures to prevent this outcome,” it added. “Divert the peloton away from the bollards with temporary barriers; station an official in front of the bollards with a flag; illustrate the dangerous feature in the road book; make an announcement on race radio which could be relayed to the riders by their teams.”

Without any of these measures being implemented ANAPRC made some demands.

“We now insist the UCI officials and race organizers admit that they performed below the standard that the athletes deserve, and make a commitment to improving in the future,” the group said. “We demand the UCI and the race organization take measures to prevent this from happening in future races. We also insist all parties communicate clearly with the CPA about their plans to improve.”

It said that while such risks were unacceptable at any level of the sport, the fact that the accident occurred at WorldTour level was particularly wrong.

“Those races granted a WorldTour license must set the standard for the entire sport.”

The peloton as a whole also made its displeasure clear on Tuesday’s start with teams refusing to move off when the signal was given. They delayed in order to prove a point, then finally got underway.

Stetina’s BMC Racing Team welcomed the show of solidarity. Brent Bookwalter, who is both a member of the squad and also a member of ANAPRC said that this was a clear signal.

“It was important today to make it known that the riders will not accept ‘good enough’ from the race organizations and the UCI in regard to rider safety,” he stated. “The protest was not initiated by any one team or any one rider – but rather by the CPA (riders union), which exists to protect the riders’ interests. And safety is a big one of them.

“While the protest was good for awareness, it actually does little to enforce accountability from those who are charged with keeping us safe when it comes to avoidable dangers like yesterday. For that, we need every rider to become involved and engaged on the topic and for the CPA to aggressively pursue accountability from the races and the UCI.

“We cannot forget what happened yesterday. The sport deserves better and is capable of far better.”

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