Brammeier explains his criticism of Nibali: “Riders all have to pull together”

by Shane Stokes


Two days after criticising Vincenzo Nibali on Twitter, Matt Brammeier has elaborated on the reason for his frustration, saying that progress made on rider safety risks unravelling if those racing bikes don’t pull in the same direction.

Nibali was frustrated with the decision of Tirreno-Adriatico organiser RCS Sport to cancel Sunday’s stage of Tirreno Adriatico. The organisation said on Saturday that snow along the route made things too dangerous, invoking the UCI’s Extreme Weather Protocol, but Nibali was unhappy.

On Sunday he tweeted a video of the finishing climb devoid of snow, along with the following message:

His coach Paolo Slongo recorded the video of the final climb and told Tutto Bici that Nibali would consider missing the Giro d’Italia altogether if there was the chance that stages would be cancelled due to bad weather.

In that case, he would instead ride the Tour.

Brammeier’s response made his frustration clear.

Speaking Tuesday to CyclingTips, the multiple Irish road race champion elaborated on that Tweet and the reasons behind it. He said that while he had been given messages of support from within the peloton, that he had received flak from some fans, particularly those from Italy.

“Basically, I have been involved quite a bit in setting up the British and Irish CPA [Professional Riders’ Association – ed.] over the last few months,” he said, explaining that a seat on the board had become available and that he had been spending ‘a few hours a day’ working in this area and helping out.

“The main things we were looking at that is safety stuff, including the Extreme Weather Protocol. We are also trying to implement a final three kilometre safety rule to try to reduce the number of avoidable crashes due to unmarked obstacles like we have seen in some races this year.

“It is important that we are confident that the finishes are going to be designed with common sense, and we know what is coming around the last corner.”

The rule is being worked on with the North American Professional Road Cyclists group (ANAPRC), which is making the proposal along with Brammeier and Ben Greetham, the new GBR-IRL representative.

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka rider Brammeier said that since he has started working in this area, he has got a much clearer appreciation of how much has already been done by others in the CPA, including the ANAPRC.

He said they have dedicated a lot of effort and for honourable reasons. “Nobody is benefiting in any financial way or anything like that. They are doing it out of their own good will just because they don’t want to see people hurt or to crash out in the snow.”

Hence his frustration with Nibali’s position. “To see a comment like that is the typical mindset of cyclists of the past. It is just so narrow minded, only thinking about the next race. Just thinking about their goals and not considering the bigger picture, which is trying to make cycling more professional.

“What we have seen in the last few months and years is pretty embarrassing, really, in terms of avoidable crashes. We can’t and won’t eliminate every risk in cycling — but we should take common sense measures where possible.

“That is why I felt so strongly about it. And especially with a name as big as Nibali. If he says something like that, it can jeopardise everything that all those guys have done. We need to pull together and show solidarity.

“Of course every guy is entitled to his views and they should be respected, but they should not be played out in the media. Vincenzo can pick up the phone any time and call Cristian Salvato, who is the president of the Italian riders association (ACCPI) and a top guy in the CPA.

“Salvato was on-the-ground at Tirreno and part of the group who applied the Protocol. Every rider in the peloton is not always going to agree 100% on every issue but we have to agree to speak with a unified voice to be taken seriously and for the sake of getting anything done.”

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“It is about keeping us safe”

Brammeier states that the Extreme Weather Protocol situation isn’t perfect, but that progress is being made and things are moving in the right direction. “We have made a start. Of course what happened in Paris-Nice wasn’t ideal, but at least we didn’t have to go over that climb and race down the other side, which would have been treacherous.”

As regards the cancellation of the stage in Tirreno Adriatico one day before it was due to be run off, he said that the situation also wasn’t ideal. However because such an extreme decision was taken, it proves that the riders’ safety is being taken seriously and that organisers are now prepared to act on that.

“There has been so much positivity and everyone is happy with what happened,” he stated. “Obviously you have some fans who wanted to sit down and watch a bike race on Sunday, but sometimes races have got to be cancelled or shortened so we can all be there to race the next day and the next week.”

One criticism about the decision to cancel the stage – and also to curtail a stage in Paris-Nice when the weather worsened after the start – was that no plan B was in place. Asked if he believed that something along these lines should be done, Brammeier said that he believed there must have been valid reasons why organisers weren’t able to come up with solutions thus far.

He said that he didn’t know the ins and outs of the situation, but said one possibility was that road closures may have to be negotiated long in advance.

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Looking forward now that the Extreme Weather Protocol is up and running, he said keeping a possible plan B in mind might be something to look at in the case of future disruptions.

“I don’t know why they can’t just say, ‘there is a chance of snow there, there is going to be snow, let’s move the finish to a safe place, at the bottom of the climb or even a few kilometers up the climb, but let’s finish the race before the snow?

“However, I’m not an expert. I don’t know if that is logistically possible from the organisation’s side. Those guys obviously know what they are doing. So I don’t know offhand what the solution is.”

His main concern is that there is consistent work done to fortify riders’ rights and address safety concerns, and that riders all pull in the same direction.

Simply put, Brammeier says that if they don’t unite behind common causes, that no progress will be made in relation to important matters.

“We all have to be together, which is why we are trying so hard to pull together in the CPA and to have a united voice,” he said. “It is getting better. We have the guys from Oceania – Australia and New Zealand, they now have got their association. Britain and Ireland do too. The German speaking nations are working on it, the Scandinavians.

“I think the CPA are going to pull together a lot more in the next few months. It is going to have a lot more clout. Hopefully we do have a united voice.”

Hence his frustration with the 2014 Tour winner. According to Tuesday’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, Nibali is considering taking legal action, although this may well just be bluster.

Brammeier is clear that the peloton needs to work together for change to occur, not think individually.

“We don’t need comments like that in the media from anyone,” he states. “Nibali was not the only rider who wanted to race on Sunday. I’m sure plenty of other riders felt the same way but only he grabbed the headlines.

“The other riders who maybe felt the same way stayed quiet, agreed to trust the process that they are now a part of, and try to improve the system from the inside rather than in the media and on the outside.”

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