Lithuanian Edita Pucinskaite was one of those riders affected in the World Championships in...
Lithuanian Edita Pucinskaite was one of those riders affected in the World Championships in Stuttgart, when a barrier on the left hand side of the road literally shattered the women's field, taking out several of the race favourites, who had to scramble to get back on. But the chase cost energy, leaving some of the pre-race favourites without chances, like Pucinskaite, who finished 60th, ten minutes down. Other riders affected in the crash were Judith Arndt (21st), Priska Doppmann (26th), Maribel Moreno Allue (14th) and Regina Bruins, who did not finish the race.
Some riders were able to get up and going again quicker than others. Pucinskaite sent a letter to UCI president Pat McQuaid on October 3 to voice her concerns. She stated that she was waiting a few days with the letter, to see if "my anger mixed with disappointment would disappear," but concluded "It has not." The Lithuanian had trouble to "understand why the accident that happened to me during the women's race could not have been prevented." Pucinskaite added that these incidents don't usually happen at local races.
Pucinskaite received notification after the competition that the barriers had fallen due to the winds and was asking if "a mere blowing of wind (on the 29th September 2007 there was no storm or typhoon in Stuttgart) is a sufficient excuse for a serious disruption of the World Championship?" Her conclusion was that it was negligence that led to the incident and her opinion was that the sports events organizers are responsible for smooth running of competitions.
The fallen favourite went on to explain that the accident was "not due to good or bad luck, which happens when falling down, puncturing or getting ill unexpectedly and which we athletes accept.... It was in fact the barriers covered with advertisement banners and without wind holes creating "sea sail" effect," the Lithuanian continued to explain her point of view. She added that "I personally found myself with a broken bicycle, out of use, helmet broken in two pieces and bruises and injuries all over the body, but it could have been even worse."
Pat McQuaid for his part regretted the incident, especially to "one of the best athletes in the world." McQuaid explained that "each year the UCI delegates the technical and logistical organisation of the World Championships to a local Organising Committee. In particular, the Organising Committee is responsible for preparing the circuit and ensuring its safety."
The UCI president considered the installation of the barriers one of the most important procedures to ensure the safety of the athletes and added that "In Stuttgart, over 37 kilometres of barriers were put in place." The problem according to him was that the day of the women's race "strong gusts of wind were localised – 85 km/h or 8/9 on the Beaufort scale according to the meteorological services."
He maintained that the accident "was completely unforeseeable by the race organisation. The measures taken by the Organising Committee to ensure safety cannot be faulted in this respect."
Despite the answer from the UCI Pucinskaite remained "convinced that the incident would have been eluded and the safety of the riders ensured if the adequate technical and logistical measures were taken in view to ensure smooth running of the World Championship." She elaborated that "There were two different kinds of barriers installed to fence the circuit of the Elite Women's Road World Championship in Stuttgart.... The gust of wind has overturned only the lines of barriers, which were heavily covered with advertisement banners (without cut) and with small feet. Other barriers stayed up."
While nothing can be done now, the accident will hopefully ensure that in the future the organizers will prepare for the worst case scenario. It is not the first time that flying barriers have caused havoc in Germany. In the 1999 Deutschland Tour Emmanuel Magnien tore ligaments in his knee when a flying barrier took him out during a storm in the time trial.
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