Following the string of collisions between riders and vehicles from the convoy that accompanies races, the Union Cycliste International (UCI) published a 38-page document full of guidelines it will now expect drivers to follow, along with sanctions under existing regulations for those who do not.
The measures follow the shocking on-camera collisions between a car at the 2011 Tour de France and Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha, Jesse Sergent and a neutral support car in the Tour of Flanders in 2015, Greg Van Avermaet in San Sebastian, and a medical motorbike and Stig Broeckx in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne in 2016.
Others accidents not televised include a separate incident with a motorcycle in the Baloise Belgium Tour that left Broeckx with a severe traumatic brain injury, and the fatal incident in Gent-Wevelgem between a motorbike and Antoine Demoitie.
The UCI's rules apply to vehicles between the lead commissaire's car and the broom wagon and relate to race preparation, traffic in the race, special measures for motorbikes, what to do in the case of a crash and time trials.
The guidelines also call for drivers to take personal responsibility to be sufficiently rested, abstain from using mobile phones while driving, having a "considerate, prudent attitude rather than overconfidence", and be prepared to avoid risks "even if pressured by an insistent passenger".
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The UCI stated that the new document has the support of the Security and Technical Regulations working group, which is made up representatives from the UCI, CPA, AIGCP and the AIOCC, (federation, riders, teams and organisers).
In addition to each driver being required to hold a UCI licence issued by a national federation, they are now required to follow the guidelines or face penalties under road rules 2.2.038-2.2.074 that were modified in 2016. Fines can range from immediate exclusion from the race to a one-year ban, and fines from CHF 200-10,000.
The UCI stated in its press release regarding the convoy guidelines that cases of violations would go to the UCI Disciplinary Commission, and that "several cases are currently in progress".
"The Guidelines for vehicle circulation in the race convoy is an easily accessible reference document that is useful for both experienced and less-experienced drivers. It is a much-appreciated initiative that is part of the growing professionalism of our sport over the last 10 years," said AIGCP President Iwan Spekenbrink.
Gianni Bugno, president of the CPA, which has worked closely with the UCI on behalf of the riders, stated, "The CPA is proud to have contributed to these directives and will continue to work on this guide alongside the UCI."
In 2013, the UCI began organising training courses for drivers, and in 2016, appointed "a team of on-the-ground Technical Advisers made up of former professional riders Robbie Hunter and Thomas Rohregger as well as former rider and race director in the organisation of the Tour de France, Jean-François Pescheux," to identify "potential shortcomings in the organisation and security, and ensure necessary improvements are made before the event", according to the UCI press release.
The new guidelines build upon those efforts, providing detailed rules for drivers on their behaviour, most importantly on when and how to pass riders.
Vehicles are not allowed to overtake a rider, the breakaway or peloton in the 5km before an intermediate sprint, final 2km of a climb or mountain col in the 2km before a feed zone, in any dangerous zones announced by Radio Tour, during the final 5km of feeding from the team cars (between 25 and 20km from the finish, and in the last 10 km of the race.
"This Guide for vehicle circulation in a race is an important step forward which reflects the concrete efforts made by the UCI and all stakeholders to improve the safety of riders at competitions," said UCI President Brian Cookson. "We call on the drivers' sense of responsibility to guarantee the safety of riders. This document backs up our regulation, which was strengthened last year, and will serve as a reference for commissaires and organisers as well as anyone working at a race. This guide is proof of our determination to assume our responsibilities in the face of a capital issue: the security of our sport and our athletes."
Other guidelines of interest:
- Sport Directors are no longer allowed to talk to their riders in the last 5 km of events.
- Drivers cannot use mobile phones while driving, not even with headsets.
- No TV screens in the front seat of team cars.
- Drivers must have 0% blood alcohol levels at all times, and no opiod drug usage.
- Motorcycles carrying guests are not allowed in the race convoy.
- A maximum of five motorcycles carry out yellow flag (marshall) duties.
- Vehicles preceding the race shall accelerate in the final kilometre in order to cross the finish line and pass the photographers' area at least 15 seconds before the first rider, to avoid appearing in the view of the fixed cameras and marring the shots of the photographers.