Ochowicz: UCI needs to show courage in dealing with rider safety issues

BMC general manager says he's shocked at some of the things he's seen in the peloton

BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz said this week that he's yet to hear from the UCI regarding his calls for improvements to rider safety.

Ochowicz sent an open letter to the UCI last month calling for greater regulations to manage safety issues that have arisen more and more regularly. Tinkoff-Saxo also called on the UCI to consider better safety regulations when two of its riders were forced to abandon the Vuelta a Espana after separate incidents involving race motos.

The UCI responded to both teams' complaints by suggesting it would look at the issue in the offseason with hopes of implementing possible changes next year.

"It's not really my role to have that contact over these subjects," Ochowicz told Cyclingnews ahead of BMC's win in the team time trial World Championship Sunday afternoon.

"It's my right to have a voice and my opinion about how I see safety issues being handled. So I've voiced those opinions and now it's up to the people that actually have the power to make change to step forward and show some courage. Those are the people within the management committee of the UCI, the road commission, the pro cycling council and the UCI themselves to change the regulations."

Asked if he expected the UCI to contact him on the issue, Ochowicz said he didn't, although if he were contacted he'd be happy to give to talk with the governing body a little more in-depth on the subject.

"I see it," he said. "I'm in the car a lot of the times and I see things and I'm shocked at what's going on in the peloton. I don't know how many officials that make these rules actually get in the cars and take a look at it. I could give them first-hand experience if they want it. But it's up to them to ask. I've made my points."

BMC has suffered multiple incidents over the past two years, beginning with Taylor Phinney's nearly career-ending crash in June of 2014 when an official moto obstructed his path on a descent and caused him to crash. Phinney was out of competition for 14 months.

BMC's Peter Stetina was seriously injured in Pais Vasco earlier this year after crashing into a poorly marked set of traffic bollards, and Greg Van Avermaet was knocked off his bike and out of contention at Classica San Sebastian while leading the race in the last 500 metres.

Ochowicz suggested that the UCI need to take a "hard look" at the size of the peloton, especially in WorldTour races.

"It's the WorldTour calendar where we're faced with a peloton of 200 riders. The roads don't accommodate 200 riders, and not everybody has got he same skillset either," he said. "So there's a lot of considerations to put on the table, and it needs some serious consideration at the level where they can make changes. I can't make change personally. I don't have the authority to do that. I can only voice an opinion.

"It's a major issue," he said. "I think anybody who's been watching cycling in 2015 would have to admit that it’s a serious issue."

Ochowicz acknowledged that although incidents like moto-cyclist collision used to be rare, lately they've become all too common.

"Now it's in an every-race occurrence practically," he said. "It's not fair to the riders. It's not fair to the teams. It's not fair to the sport."

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