The Association of Professional Cyclists – the CPA – has fired back at WorldTour cyclists who have criticised and questioned the role of the riders' union, labelling their public outcries as "unacceptable".
Several hair-raising crashes have marred the resumption of the 2020 season, prompting the likes of Michael Morkov (Deceuninck-QuickStep), André Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) and now Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) to address rider safety.
Morkov last week took aim at the UCI and called the CPA a "worthless organisation" in response to poor road surfaces at the Tour de Wallonie, which he was competing at. Porte, speaking to Cyclingnews following the Critérium du Dauphiné, where several Tour de France contenders came down on a descent that the Australian said had gravel over it, resonated with the Dane.
"Look, something's got to change, hasn't it?" said Porte. "It's only getting less and less safe, the roads are getting less and less safe, with more and more furniture to slow the traffic down. I don't think the race organisers have an easy job, but as Morkov said, a lot of us riders don't really understand what the CPA do, either.
"At the end of the day, the bike riders are the ones that probably make it less safe, you know, with the speeds that we go, but it's not our fault that race organisers don't do that little one per cent – well, it's not even one per cent, is it? – to check the course and make sure the roads are up to standard."
CPA spokeswoman Giulia De Maio, when asked for a response to the general criticism, defended the aptitude of the union in representing the peloton, putting the onus on the UCI and respective race organisers.
"We have read the criticism of certain riders, and we are sorry about it because the reality is that we are the only ones fighting for them," De Maio said in a statement to Cyclingnews.
"To say that the riders' union is useless is unacceptable, and [CPA president] Gianni Bugno spoke about it directly with the athletes who expressed this opinion.
"That our work is not as effective as we would like in certain areas is admissible, but unfortunately it does not all depend on us. Safety in the race is a priority for us and must be guaranteed by the UCI and organisers.
"It is as if a fire broke out in a factory and the blame was given to the workers' union, instead of the employer and the owner of the company," she continued.
"We have always worked hard for the riders, and will continue to do so. Any contribution is welcome, even the criticisms, as long as they are founded and constructive."
De Maio listed four courses of action that the CPA has taken in response to race incidents this month, including an investigation - "by judicial authorities to the UCI" - specifically into crashes at the Tour de Pologne and Il Lombardia.
Fabio Jakobsen's high-speed crash into a barrier during a downhill bunch sprint at the Tour de Pologne left him fighting for his life, although he is now out of danger and at home recovering. Jakobsen's Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate Remco Evenepoel fractured his pelvis when he catapulted over a bridge into a ravine at Il Lombardia, where Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) also later broke his collarbone after a private vehicle gained access to the course and cut him off.
The union has also threatened race organisers with legal action.
"The legal action should serve as a warning to the organisers to take the safety of the athletes as a priority, but we are also ready to organise protest actions at the races if the situation will not improve," the statement read.
Other actions included holding an urgent meeting with stakeholders to discuss "important changes on the safety front" and meeting relevant parties before the Tour de France to talk about "the changes to be proposed for the safety measures".
"The investigations of the legal authority for what occurred at the races [will] take time but we will remain focused on this issue and demand sanctions for the organisers. The UCI has promised to give us feedback as soon as possible," De Maio said.
The statement did not specifically address criticism around the quality of road surfaces at the Tour de Wallonie; nor did it refer to the Dauphiné, where Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), among others, crashed on a stage 4 descent and as a result of his injuries won't be in Nice this Saturday for the Tour, which he finished third at last year.
"I think that on that one descent that we went down, where everyone crashed, it was the gravel that got them," Porte said.
"We're an investment to the teams, and you're going to send guys down descents like that and not even go out to look at, or at least sweep, the surface of the descent?
"I can understand why the teams are up in arms to lose guys like Emanuel Buchmann and Steven Kruijswijk. And Thibaut Pinot crashed there, too. I mean, come on.
"At the end of the day, it's someone's son. Whether those race organisers would be happy for their own son to go down something like that is another thing, but I think the riders are slowly banding together," said Porte.
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