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by Shane Stokes
February 13, 2017
Photography by Cor Vos, Kristof Ramon
Commenting days after the UCI announced new measures to improve safety within the race convoy, AIGCP managing director Javier Barrio has welcomed what was announced and said that more is to come.
The new safety rules were announced last Monday, and came as the weeks tick down to the first anniversary of the passing of Antoine Demoitiè. The Belgian rider was killed in a freak accident during last year’s Gent-Wevelgem race, crashing and then being hit by a race motorbike.
While that was deemed an accident and one which was not the fault of the moto pilot, there have been a spate of collisions between motorbikes or cars and riders in recent years, putting pressure on the UCI and others to come up with new safety provisions.
Last week’s new rules included a ban on the use of mobile phones by drivers plus a prohibition on TV screens in the front of team cars. Limitations were also placed on overtaking of the peloton at various points during races, including the final ten kilometres. In addition, recommendations were made that motorbikes be smaller and more manoeuvrable.
Barrio, who heads up the team representative group AIGCP, said that while the new rules and recommendations didn’t tick all the boxes which had been called for by various stakeholder groups, that the advancements should be acknowledged.
He also said that what was announced was a first step, and that more is to come.
“We, the teams and other stakeholders were part of this and supported this,” Barrio told CyclingTips. “It is part of a whole, there are other things in the works. I don’t want to talk too much about that because I think it is up to the UCI to announce it on its own terms.
“Two things I can say about it – it is consensus based, so that is good. And it is part of a whole, there are other things coming up. It shouldn’t be judged on that, we should wait for the rest to come along.”
Asked to elaborate on what is yet to be announced, Barrio gave one example. He said that the enforcement end of things would be strengthened. This will act as a greater deterrent to those who drive recklessly. It will also penalise those who don’t comply with the new and existing regulations.
“I think the disciplinary mechanisms are also being beefed up,” he said. “Now licensees will be liable. Not only can they get ejected from a race, they can be suspended. So the rules will be made tougher.”
There are no indications as yet as to when such mechanisms will come into place. However he said that while a lot of focus has been on the introduction of new regulations, better enforcement of existing rules was equally crucial.
“That part is very important,” he said. “I don’t know if you are aware but there is also the review commission. If you look at football and other sports, on a Monday they always examine all the actions that happened in the weekends. Someone gave someone a kick in the nuts [laughs] or something, and then the player can get a two or three match suspension.
“This is what is missing from our sport. We are setting this up now. There will be this review commission which looks at all the actions that happened over the weekend, and then more disciplinary action can be taken, including those for hazardous driving.
“We probably have the most sophisticated rulebook in all professional sport. Sometimes I am very wary of more regulations. Sometimes what we need is more refereeing, more judging, more judges. That is my point. To get what we have in place working rather than always getting more and more and more. I am not saying that is the solution, but we should consider that too.”
Antoine Demoitiè passed away nearly a year ago. The new safety measures try to make things less dangerous within the pro peloton.
Barrio has worked with the AIGCP since last June. Prior to that he worked in a UCI role for six years and, perhaps because of that, can see things from the governing body’s perspective too.
Perhaps due to that broad background, he said that while progress is being made, there also needs to be a recognition that everything can’t change overnight. He believes that stakeholder groups need to work step by step.
“One thing that was unfortunate is that instead of convening a meeting, every stakeholder seemed to operate on its own,” he said. “The CPA [rider representative group – ed.] did their work, they arrived and they said, ‘well, we want this done.’ I presume AIOCC [the association of race organisers – ed.] also did that. They were huge plans. It was a huge thing, a 50 slide presentation.
“I think the UCI took what they thought was more realistic. And just because something wasn’t included now doesn’t mean it won’t be part.
“The UCI’s job is tricky,” he continued. “I have been at the UCI and one thing people need to understand is that rules are for all races. Whether it is a class two race in Asia or a Grand Tour, it is the same rule.”
The point was made in response to a question about the CPA’s request for a team of experienced moto pilots to be employed to work across all the WorldTour events. This wasn’t mentioned in the UCI’s new guidelines.
“What was presented this week was for all races,” Barrio states. “People have to understand that when you are regulating for the whole sport, sometimes you have to regulate with the lowest common denominator in mind. And there is such thing as a cahier des charges, the specifications for WorldTour. So WorldTour organisers are held accountable to higher standards based on that.”
Similarly, he tries to consider things from the race organisers point of view too.
“It is very easy to say, ‘we need this, we need this, we need this, we need this.’ What we are hearing now, all the burdens are put on the organisers or on the teams. When I say teams, CPA is putting the burden on the organisers, ‘they need to do this, this, this and that.’ That has a cost. So I think we have to listen to that.
“But then organisers put that burden back on the teams and say, ‘well, actually what we need to do is to reduce the size of teams.’ That is their first safety measure…forget about putting more resources into the races. Their first step is, ‘we need to reduce the peloton, that would solve everything.’ So everybody is always putting the burden on the other stakeholders.
“It is very easy to do that, and you have to accept that there will be some resistance. The CPA has to understand that there will be resistance when they ask organisers to invest more in the races. They want to, but do we have to do all of that today?”
Barrio’s point is that it can be counterproductive for any stakeholder to criticise others publicly for not moving fast enough.
“All I can say is that in my experience, no one walks away from the negotiation table with 100 percent of what they want. So I think everybody should look at what they gained instead of what they didn’t get.
“We definitely endorse what has been done. We don’t have to hope that more is coming – we know that more is coming. So let’s wait for the whole thing to come out and then we can judge.”