The Belgian Federation has abandoned its upper age limit for directeur sportifs driving in a race caravan, opting to introduce a ‘certificate of fitness’ for anyone hoping to get behind the wheel of a team or race vehicle.
At present, anyone over the age of 70 and registered with Belgian Cycling is barred from driving a vehicle in a race caravan. However, this week the federation confirmed that this would change and the new rules would apply from January.
“Safety during cycling races remains one of the main concerns of Belgian Cycling. Once again the federation takes additional measures to ensure that the motorised traffic in the caravan continues to lead in good and safe tracks,” a statement on the Belgian Cycling website read. “For example, the age limit of 70 years is set for drivers of a vehicle in the racing caravan on the national or international calendar (exception is made for the opening vehicle, the closing vehicle and the vehicles of police and emergency services).
“This measure will be replaced by the introduction of a certificate of fitness to drive. This certificate must be attached to the license application. This measure will take effect from 2019 and will also apply to all sports directors and team leaders from UCI teams and club teams, including those who apply for a license for the first time. New team leaders are also subjected to a theoretical test and a compulsory internship period.”
The changes in the regulations come after complaints from Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise directeur sportif, who turned 70 this season. Wanty-Group Gobert’s Hilaire Van der Schueren would have also been prevented from driving the team vehicle with this regulation.
"When you are 70 years old, many people think you are an old man, but most of all it is about your richness, and I have never caused an accident in 33 years as a team leader," Planckaert told Sporza last week. "There are 50-year-old drivers who drive worse than a 70-year-old driver."
Planckaert’s dig was directed towards newly appointed Belgian national coach, Rik Verbrugghe. According to Planckaert told Sporza that Verbrugghe – who was a directeur sportif at Bahrain-Merida this season - ran over the foot of one of the Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise mechanics, leaving him with a broken foot.
"My mechanic Roger Michiels got out to help a rider of my team, but he was just knocked down by Verbrugghe, that man's foot is now shattered,” said Planckaert. "After the race, we were looking for Verbrugghe to fill in papers, but we did not hear anything anymore. So, he committed a hit and run, is that a better driver than me?"
Belgian Cycling said that there were aware of the incident, which happened at Gent-Wevelgem in March, and that they would discuss it with him when he began his appointment this month.