The tragic death of Antoine Demoitié caused feelings to run high. And, understandably so. That a 25 year old rider was killed in a sporting event seemed to be a massive waste, a life snuffed out when a motorbike hit him as he lay upon the ground.
The Belgian rider’s crash in Gent-Wevelgem might otherwise have had far less serious consequences. However the moto driver couldn’t stop in time, the machine fell on the rider and that was that.
In the minutes and hours after the news became official – and well into Monday – social media and media itself was causing for widespread changes within the peloton. The sport needed to become safer, many said, and they are absolutely correct in that regard.
However widespread calls for a slashing of the number of race motorbikes is of debatable value. Kristof Ramon is a highly respected photographer who contributes to CyclingTips and other outlets, and who has built up considerable experience of covering the biggest races in the world.
He points out that a large number of race motorbikes are there to protect the riders, and without them those in the peloton would be in much more danger. He says he completely understands the feelings of anger about what happened on Sunday, but also believes that important nuances are being missed and that there is a rush to judgement because of the emotion involved.
“I feel a lot of photo motos have been targeted [by those commenting on social media – ed.] but there are many, many other more motos in the peloton. Specifically in Belgium, the marshals are on motorbikes and they go through the peloton. In Holland, that is not possible, they have a different system.
“So most motorbikes going through the peloton are from those marshals. I think it is also important to indicate that the guy in the accident was actually a very experienced guy from the Belgian Cycling Union. The team was clear that this guy was not to blame.
“He had an accident but he tried to avoid what was happening in front of him, and he couldn’t.”
Ramon spoke at length to CyclingTips about the situation. He discussed Antoine Demoitié, having got to know him a little due to his work as the Team Wanty Groupe Gobert photographer, and how the news of the accident affected him.
He speaks about the criticisms in recent days and also about the details that many might not be aware of. He revealed a very interesting point about an image that some have used to criticise the number of motorbikes around riders, and also spoke about his own experiences and the efforts he makes to ensure that both he and the riders are as safe as possible.
— Michael Rogers (@mickrogers) March 28, 2016
In terms of steps to help avoid any further tragedies, Ramon discusses recommendations to make things safer, mentioning several ideas which could help in this regard and which, hopefully, the UCI will consider.