Commenting two days after a number of riders were injured in a crash with two motorbikes at the Tour of Belgium – one of whom, Stig Broeckx, has been left in a coma, the UCI has announced new rules to try to improve safety.
“These new rules require absolute vigilance from all drivers and motorbike riders, who must at all times prioritise the safety of riders in the race, spectators and other vehicles,” said the UCI in a statement.
“The new rules also make it clear that everyone in charge of a vehicle must immediately comply with all directions from race commissaires. The need for safe driving, particularly when overtaking riders, has been given extra emphasis by commissaires during pre-race briefings.
“These rules are backed by sanctions which will be applied by the UCI Disciplinary Commission if any driver is found to be acting negligently.”
The step follows a number of accidents between motorbikes and riders in the past two seasons. One was in the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne race in February and saw the same rider, Stig Broeckx, hit by a passing bike.
Another crash occured in the Gent-Wevelgem race in March and led to the death of the Belgian rider Arnaud Demoitie.
The latter pointed out that motorbikes had become bulkier and more powerful, thus potentially leading to increased danger.
It now appears the UCI also feels that this could be a factor.
It said that it and key stakeholders were currently finalising updated regulations and guidelines for road racing.
“This will include rules limiting the number of vehicles allowed in races and how these vehicles should be positioned at different points in the race,” it stated.
“The UCI is also carefully studying elements such as the size and power of motorcycles used in races and how these elements have evolved over recent years in order to assess the safety implications and how best to regulate this aspect of race security.”
It added that there would be a significant increase in the number of those monitoring safety at races.
The announced measures may go some way towards answering the chorus of voices for action. However any repeats of the accidents seen in recent months will further ramp up the pressure on the UCI.
UCI President Brian Cookson insisted that he and the governing body were taking the subject seriously.
“Safety is an absolutely vital issue for the UCI and our stakeholders, and it is crucial we do all in our power to protect the riders from unnecessary risks,” he stated.
“We have seen too many incidents involving motorcycles, and that is why we recently adopted clear new rules governing how vehicles must be driven in races. Right now, our thoughts are with Stig Broeckx, his family, friends and teammates from Lotto Soudal.”
The UCI said that the Tour of Belgium accidents would be scrutinised to see if the new rules were respected or not.