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CPA calls for UCI investigation into Tour de Pologne crash

Gianni Bugno at the 2019 Omploop Het Nieuwsblad
Gianni Bugno at the 2019 Omploop Het Nieuwsblad (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The professional cyclists’ union the CPA has asked the UCI to open an investigation into the crash on the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne in which Fabio Jakobsen sustained severe injuries.

In a letter to UCI president David Lappartient and Tour de Pologne director Agata Lang, CPA president Gianni Bugno reiterated his association’s call for universal standards to be imposed for barriers at finish areas and queried why the race organisation had seen fit to hold a downhill finish in Katowice on a stage that was always likely to end in a bunch sprint. 

The CPA also highlighted a need for “exemplary penalties” for riders who cause such crashes.

Jakobsen underwent five and a half hours of facial surgery overnight and the Dutch national champion remains in an induced coma in the intensive care unit in Sosnowiec, Poland. His Deceuninck-QuickStep team has described his condition as “stable.”

Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) was disqualified from the Tour de Pologne for his part in the crash and fined 500CHF, while the matter has been referred to the UCI Disciplinary Commission. In a statement on Wednesday evening, the UCI described Groenewegen’s behaviour as “unacceptable,” but the governing body made no reference to the dangers of the stage finale and the apparent shortcomings in the barriers placed along the finishing straight.

“In the recording of the accident, the barriers seem way too low to guarantee a real protection in the event of a crash and they also seem insufficiently secured to the supports so as to ‘fly anywhere’ after the impact. Same as for the billboards placed alongside the race course,” Bugno wrote on behalf of the CPA.

“We ask if a check has been carried out on the suitability of these protections and their correct installation before the start of the race.”

In meetings of the UCI Technical and Regulation Working Group, Bugno added, the CPA had repeatedly requested the use of barriers that “were both standard and approved” in order to safeguard riders.

“We deem it appropriate and urgent to accept our request for ‘approved barriers’ and no longer allow the use of certain unsafe protections and freedom of choice for the organizers on the barriers to be used in the most critical points of the race,” Bugno wrote.

Speaking to Cyclingnews on Thursday, Robbie McEwen said that he had lobbied the UCI during his professional career to introduce a standard, metal barrier for race finishes that would help to deflect falling riders back onto the road. “The barriers in Poland flew every which way, and it looked to me like they were made of plastic,” McEwen said. “One of them broke into pieces and that doesn’t happen with the metal ones. There’s a lot to be done in regard to safety in the last few hundred metres.”

The CPA letter also criticised the decision to finish the stage on a downhill section of road in Katowice, a finale that has featured repeatedly at the Tour de Pologne in recent years.

“The riders’ speed in such circumstances make the show certainly attractive but at too high a price for the athletes,” Bugno wrote. “We therefore ask for a rethinking of downhill arrivals at races where mass sprints are expected.”

In his final point, Bugno asked that the UCI set an example by issuing “very severe” sanctions to riders whose actions lead to crashes.

“We ask that the penalties for riders who commit incorrect actions such as that committed by Dylan Gronewegen yesterday are very severe,” Bugno wrote. “The riders must be educated to respect their competitors through exemplary penalties so that the fair play and the sporting spirit never get missed."

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