The penultimate day of the Tour of Oman was an exciting prospect with the general classification finely poised between Rafael Valls (Lampre-Merida) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) but it ended in confusion and bickering. Eventually the organisers acquiesced to the riders’ request and cancelled the day’s racing due to safety concerns but it wasn’t before some heated debate.
When the riders finally arrived at the finish line at the Ministry of Housing there was plenty disagreement between as to who wanted to race or not. However, there were two main agreements between much of the bunch. That it was important that they had all worked together and stood up for their rights, and that this could be a landmark day in terms of cyclists’ rights.
Here are some of the reactions and reports from around the peloton after the cancelled stage 5 of the Tour of Oman.
Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) – 2010 Tour of Oman winner
“It was for the security of the riders. It is nothing against the organisers but it was impossible to do a descent at 85kph when the temperature is 47 degrees. The tyres were boiling and some of the guys could take them off with their hands and usually you can’t do that. The UCI has to organise regulations for extreme weather, like here with the heat and Milan-San Remo with the snow.”
Eddy Merckx – Race organiser
"When it rains in the Pyreenees and Paris-Roubaix it is also dangerous. But they don't climb off their bikes then, do they? I'm disappointed, yes, because this could endanger the future of the Tour of Oman. In future, riders will have to prepare for the season elsewhere."
Tejay van Garderen (BMC) - Second in the overall classification
“For me it looked like it was all from the same team so I think it was a problem with their equipment and not really a problem with ours but then everyone got scared and said that we don’t want to ride this.
“I’m disappointed because I really thought that today would be a chance to win the race. I also thought, this race has been, from a preparation standpoint, not very difficult racing, today was going to be one of the harder days. As far as preparation for the year ahead, this stage has been pretty poor.”
Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep)
“During the first descent on the neutralised section, eight tyres exploded. The riders were scared. Had the pace in the race have been another 20 per cent higher, you would have had even harder breaking points and even higher temperatures in the tyres.
“A tyre that explodes at 90kph is dangerous. You wish that on nobody. We are all fathers or sons. We are not here to make war. No one wants to jeopardise his life. It's good that everyone is pulling in the same direction. This could be an important day for cycling.”
Sean Yates (Tinkoff-Saxo directeur sportif)
“In my opinion and in the opinion of the team the right decision was taken. Rider safety comes first. People would argue that cycling is dangerous but so is everything and that’s why we put a 70mph limit on the motorway. Driving dangerous and you could still kill yourself at 70 but there is a limit. As far as I’m aware there’s nothing down in the UCI regulations as to how hot it can be and still ride.
“Down the first ascent I saw a Katusha rider take his front wheel out and the rim was so hot that he had to drop it and it rolled across the road in front of a car. It was extremely dangerous and you can imagine in a racing scenario where the riders aren’t really thinking properly and they’re going hell for leather and something happens. Who’s accountable? ASO? UCI? The teams? Obviously there is one thing that has been lacking in cycling for a long time and that is a union, where someone official can have a word. Obviously Fabian and other prominent riders took it upon themselves to lead the cause.”
Nicolas Portal (Team Sky directeur sportif)
“It is about the quality of the wheels and for us I think it was fine because ours are really high quality. But then some guys thought that it was too dangerous and some said no we don’t want to race. The question was more about the security and there was no answer so I think that the best decision was to cancel.
“The guys were pretty confident but the problem was that you don’t really know about the other guys. If they crash, it’s ok if you’re only riding 30kph but if you’re going 80kph and three guys crash then it is another situation. You need to put yourself in that situation and say if I was with the guys and I knew that something was going to happen… there is no regulation and that’s the point. I hope that there will be one after this stage.”