Italy's Luca Paolini has spoken out about the level crossing incident during Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, insisting that rider safety should always be a priority and that trains should be stopped for such an important race.
The 38-year-old Katusha rider and recent Gent-Wevelgem winner took to Twitter late on Monday night to give his opinion. Paolini has often taken a stand for rider safety. He is not an official rider representative but is respected for his experience and consideration for rider and race safety.
The level crossing incident during Paris-Roubaix, when numerous riders passed through a closing level crossing just seconds before a high-speed TGV train passed, has sparked further debate about rider safety. The level crossing had barriers on only side of the road, allowing riders to weave around them and ride across the rail tracks. The moment the riders passed under and around the barriers was captured on television. French television France 3 also recorded the incident from another point of view, just after the level crossing. See the videos below Paolini's full Twitter message.
Some suggested the riders who passed through should have been disqualified, as occurred in 2006. However race officials claimed that it was impossible to stop the riders because the barriers started to close when the peloton was just 10 metres away. The commissaries, together with the race organisation, neutralised the first part of the peloton to facilitate a general regrouping.
Paolini spread his thoughts across 14 tweets. “A question has been tormenting me since yesterday!!!” he writes in one section. "Faced with such a spectacle, where every rider risks, (not to mention their lives), traumas to their own body and to the continuation of his own career… is it so difficult and extremely complicated to think of giving precedence to a show that has no equal (?) and evaluate/organize during the year, how to block (the trains), for our protection and for the spectacle that only Roubaix can offer (?)."
On Monday the French national railway company SNCF asked police to investigate what happened and discover who was responsible. They describe the actions of the riders who crossed as the barriers were closing as "extremely grave and irresponsible actions which could have been tragic." 29 people are killed every year in France at level crossings.
The UCI also issued a statement, saying it had requested a comprehensive report to be submitted as soon as possible for review and potential action. "It is everyone's duty to make sure that our beautiful sport of cycling is not tarnished by incidents that appear to have been avoidable," the UCI statement said.
Amateur video footage has also emerged of a group of riders passing through a closing barrier at a railway crossing during Saturday's Under 23 Ronde van Vlaanderen in Belgium. A warning alarm can be heard but a string of riders pass through the crossing. Christopher Latham, riding for the Great Britain team, is the last to swerve around the closed barriers, just seconds before a fast-moving train passes.
Paolini's 14-tweet message
Cyclingnews has translated and collated Paolini's 14 tweets for clarity. There has yet to be any official response to his tweets from the UCI, Paris-Roubaix organiser ASO or team and rider organisations.
"Enough is enough... I've read over and over about a race being "falsified" because of poor organisation at a railway crossing. It's absurd and it hurts. We're talking about one, if not the most spectacular race on the international cycling calendar, and we're here discussing who is right or wrong!!!"
"We're talking about an event seen in 186 countries with millions of spectators... And we're discussing whether or not to stop the riders. Already at an early stage, not a key stage of the high level race... After having done the Arenberg Forest and another 2/3 sectors… precisely where the most selection occurs and the riders are not at as lucid!"
"A question has been tormenting me since yesterday!!! Faced with such a spectacle, where every rider risks, (not to mention their lives), traumas to their own body and to the continuation of his own career… is it so difficult and extremely complicated to think of giving precedence to a show that has no equal (?) and evaluate/organize over a year, how to block (the trains), for our protection and for the spectacle that only Roubaix can offer (?)."
"Two carriages of an unlucky TGV of 2/3 carriages which served no real purpose? We're in the usual situation, where organizers that are not keeping up with things (not up to date) …and us poor goats, at the mercy of crazy speeds and unheard of risks, just so the show must go on…."
"A show that would seriously needs a lot of work, not just a turn of a screw but a few turns with a fully-charged Makita screwdriver."
"Anyway, I stand by my ideas!! There are races where the stakes are so high that it obfuscates the lucidity of the circus that is cycling! And regarding this, we must reflect once and for all and take the time to put in place rules that have a set of balls!"
"To put things in a few words: In certain cases and in particular races like Roubaix, the 'riders should have the precedence'. Good night my friends."
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