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by Shane Stokes
February 7, 2017
Photography by Sabine Jacob/Cor Vos
Heading towards the one year anniversary of the death of Antoine Demoitiè during the Gent-Wevelgem event, the UCI has tightened up on its safety procedures and instructions for the movement of vehicles in the race convoy.
The governing body issued the guidelines on Monday, having collaborated on the revisions with the professional teams association AIGCP, the pro riders’ association CPA and the international association of race organisers AIOCC.
Jean-Francois Pescheux, who acted as the technical director for the Tour de France for almost 40 years, was also involved in the new rules and recommendations.
UCI president Brian Cookson referred to the guide as an important step forward, and said that it ‘reflects the concrete efforts made by the UCI and all stakeholders to improve the safety of riders at competitions.’
Cookson added that the new document came on the heels of regulations which were strengthened last year. He said that it was proof of the UCI’s determination to ‘assume our responsibilities in the face of a capital issue: the security of our sport and our athletes.’
Demoitiè was killed on March 27 when he was hit by a race motorbike after crashing during the Gent-Wevelgem event. Although the collision was deemed an accident and the moto pilot was cleared of blame, it highlighted the inherent risk of riders and race vehicles operating close to each other.
This was further emphasised by moto collisions involving Peter Sagan, Jakob Fuglsang, Greg Van Avermeet and Sergio Paulinho in 2015, and impacts between Shimano neutral service cars and Jesse Sergent plus Sébastien Chavanel at that year’s Tour of Flanders.
Belgian rider Stig Broeckx suffered two collisions with a motorbike in 2016. The second of those took place during the Tour of Belgium and left him with serious injuries including brain damage.
Monday’s document is intended in part to cut down on the chances of such accidents in the future.
Amongst the listed requirements for drivers include the holding of valid driving and UCI licences, zero use of alcohol or narcotics and no utilisation of mobile phones, even via headsets or car speaker systems. TV screens are banned in the front of the vehicle.
As regards vehicles, requirements include that they are in perfect working order and that Radio Tour must be turned on and monitored at all times.
For motorbikes, they are required to be ‘sufficiently manoeuvrable and suited to the requirements of a cycling event.’ There is a preference – although unfortunately not a requirement – that bikes should have what is termed ‘a reasonable engine size on order to limit the overall weight of the bike,’ and be as compact as possible.
The latter stipulation suggests either no side panniers or the use of soft-side panniers, such as those made from leather.
There are a multitude of other rules and recommendations, which can be read here.
Pescheux said that the new guidelines were the latest evolution in safety standards in the sport. “More than 40 years’ experience in the world of cycling has allowed me to pass on to a new generation the best practices and techniques for organising a cycling event,” he said.
“This guide is anything but a revolution: let’s not re-invent what works well but simply harmonise our working methods with the main objective of improving the safety of our events.”
It is worth noting that some but not all of the CPA’s previous safety requests have been met.
The body had called for motorbikes to use off-course roads to pass the peloton where possible: this is recommended by the UCI document for motorbike escorts, including marshals.
The CPA had also requested that there should be no motorbikes or vehicles near riders in the final 10 kilometres of a race. Most vehicles are indeed prohibited from passing inside this final section, although the document allows for others – including TV and photographer motorbikes – to be near to the riders until closer to the finish.
Their roles make this essential, but the other rules concerning motorbikes and vehicles should make things safer.
Other CPA requests which were not included in the UCI document were a prohibition on motorbikes and vehicles passing riders on descents, plus the introduction of a fixed team of professional motorbike operators working across the WorldTour calendar.
The riders’ body had also asked for a speed limit of no more than ten kilometres per hour faster when vehicles and motorbikes were overtaking within five metres of the peloton. The UCI guidelines require that passing is done ‘without excessive speed’ but no specific restriction is mentioned.
The CPA’s request that smaller, lighter and less powerful motorbikes be used is a recommendation rather than a strict rule in the new guidelines.
CPA president Gianni Bugno said that the body was proud to have contributed to the directives and that it would continue to work on the guide alongside the UCI.