Riders and teams have expressed their sorrow, dismay, and outrage over an incident at the Baloise Belgium Tour on Saturday that saw two motorcycles cause a massive crash during stage 3. The stage was abandoned with numerous riders needing medical attention, the most seriously affected being Lotto Soudal's Stig Broeckx, who is currently in a coma with bleeding to the brain.
Given the string of incidents involving race vehicles in the last couple of years, which includes the death of Antoine Demoitie earlier this year, there were understandably many impassioned reactions from the peloton.
It's going to be very difficult to race today, knowing a friend/colleague is fighting for his life...#Nomotivation— Kenny Dehaes (@Kennydehaes) May 29, 2016
Enrico Gasparotto helps call off the stage, adds perspective
Enrico Gasparotto, 34, took on the role of patron of the peloton in the aftermath of the crash and, with the race neutralised, put forward the case that it should be abandoned altogether. Gasparotto rides for the same team, Wanty Groupe Gobert, as Demoitié did.
"It was not a hard decision. I immediately had the idea about stopping because what happened was really serious and really bad for cycling again. What happened already this year to our team, that cannot happen again," he said in an interview with Sporza.
"For that reason the best thing to do was give a big signal to everyone, that before being riders we are fathers, family. At times you need to have a look in the mirror and think about that and don't think about winning races or getting contracts. Without a life we cannot have contracts. The most important thing is life."
Riders call on UCI to take action
"And yet another accident with the race motorcycles. And yet more riders injured. This just can’t go on. Today’s stage of the Tour of Belgium was first halted and then cancelled, as a sign that we are no longer accepting the situation with our safety.
"Stig Broeckx, who by this way was already earlier this year run down by a race motorcycle, is the worst off. In all it was 20 riders (!) who were affected. I was in the lead group when it happened. Apparently a motorcycle crashed on the side of the road as it was passing the field. It took another motorcycle with it and they smashed into the group.
"It is irresponsible that in addition to the normal risks we face in our sport, we are brought in further danger by mistakes made by the race organizers.
"We now absolutely need a round table meeting with representatives of the UCI, race organizers, teams and riders, in order to hammer out unified standards and rules for the number and behavior of accompanying race vehicles. Too much has happened already!"
Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep):
Reading about the crash on Belgium Tour. Horrible! How much more has to happen until @UCI_cycling/organisers will finally react?— Marcel Kittel (@marcelkittel) May 28, 2016
UCI stopped use of Disc brakes immediately after Ventoso incident. Why are there no immediate safety measures for race vehicles?Ideas exist!— Marcel Kittel (@marcelkittel) May 28, 2016
Unbelievable, my thoughts are with @StigBroeckx and all the other riders involved.— Tom Dumoulin (@tom_dumoulin) May 28, 2016
I don't like to start a big discussion after such an accident, but I have a feeling not much is happening to prevent it in the future.— Tom Dumoulin (@tom_dumoulin) May 28, 2016
We need to have motorbikes in the peloton that are the opposite of us riders: calm, patient and reasonable. Let us do the racing.— Tom Dumoulin (@tom_dumoulin) May 28, 2016
Motorcyclists: we need you for our safety. We don't need you to do your own little race before a corner, trying to overtake the bunch.— Tom Dumoulin (@tom_dumoulin) May 28, 2016
So the solution? Better rules when to overtake and when not to. More experience required. Some motorcyclists need a different mentality.— Tom Dumoulin (@tom_dumoulin) May 28, 2016
Koen de Kort (Giant-Alpecin):
Not sure what to say right now. Accidents can and will happen but surely more should be done for our safety. We can't continue like this...— Koen de Kort (@koendekort) May 28, 2016
The UCI responded directly to Tony Martin on Twitter, pointing out that their rules and regulations regarding race vehicles had recently been amended in the aftermath of the string of vehicle-related incidents that have occurred in the past couple of years.
The updated regulations, which can be seen here from chapter 2.2.038, cover basic driver proficiency and revised sanctions for wrongdoing, but don't signal any major change or overhaul to the situation.
"The UCI has recently introduced strict new rules governing the conduct of motorcycle riders in races and we will be looking very closely at what happened today to determine whether those rules were respected," read a statement on Saturday from the governing body.