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Moolman-Pasio: Women have had no say or input regarding new safety measures

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SD Worx) (Image credit: SD Worx)

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio has weighed in on the UCI’s decision to ban both the ‘super-tuck’ and ‘forearms on aero bars’ positions, telling Cyclingnews that while they are fast, they are also unsafe.

The SD Worx rider also revealed that there were no women, representative from the women’s peloton, involved in the decision-making process that led to a new series of wide-ranging safety measures. She also said that there were no female riders included in a notification regarding the proposed safety measures that was circulated by the CPA last November to 800 professional riders.

"When I saw the initial ban on the super-tuck or forearms on the aero bars my initial response was that it’s a shame because it’s pretty cool to do the super-tuck and it is super fast, and of course it is pretty fast putting your forearms on the bars, and doing an aero position like a time trial," Moolman-Pasio said.

"The reality is, though, that if you take a step back and take yourself out of the position of being a pro rider who has the skills to do all those things, and you start to look at the other implications, I do see why it should be banned and has been banned.

"I can put myself on the outside, and although I am bummed because I do enjoy doing these things, I can see why it could be dangerous in the fact that we may be setting a bad example to those who are looking up to us and might not have the skills to execute these positions. 

"I also do agree with Matteo [Trentin] when he said that it’s all good an well to be in the super-tuck or forearms on the bars in aero position when you are out on your own and there are no riders around you, but I have seen more and more riders taking more and more risks in small bunches and groups, assuming these positions when there are other riders around them and things can very quickly go very wrong if you hit a bump or something like that," she added.

"It’s a bit of a bummer because they are cool positions and they are faster but if its the same for everyone, banned for everyone, it equals out the playing field, and we have to find other safe ways of being fast."

The UCI announced the banning of the ‘super-tuck' and 'forearms-on-bars' positions as part of the safety measures approved by the Pro Cycling Council during a virtual meeting of the UCI Management Committee from February 2-3.

It updated its rules last week, saying: "Riders must observe the standard position as defined by article 1.3.008. Sitting on the bicycle’s top tube is prohibited. Furthermore, using the forearms as a point of support on the handlebar is prohibited except in time trials."

Article 1.3.008 states: "The rider shall normally assume a sitting position on the bicycle. This position requires that the only points of support are the following: the feet on the pedals, the hands on the handlebars and the seat on the saddle."

The new safety measures take effect on April 1.

'Email was not sent to any women, that is for sure'

The UCI created a working group dedicated to rider safety after a series of horrific crashes that took place during the revised international road calendar last year. The sport governing body announced last December a broad range of key safety measures that would be implemented in men’s and women’s road cycling 2021 to tackle safety concerns. 

The working group, led by UCI President David Lappartient, also includes the Pro Cycling Council President Tom Van Damme, and coordinated by the UCI’s Sports Department. The members of the safety working group include the AIGCP teams association representatives Iwan Spekenbrink, Richard Plugge, Patrick Lefevere and Carsten Jeppesen, the AIOCC organisers association of Christian Prudhomme, Richard Chassot and Thierry Gouvenou, and the CPA riders association Gianni Bugno, Pascal Chanteur, Laura Mora, and rider representatives Philippe Gilbert and Matteo Trentin

Cyclingnews asked the UCI last December about the involvement and representation of women's cycling, such as women's teams, riders, and race organisers, in the meetings on rider safety.

The UCI stated, at that time, that the women's event organisers, teams and riders were represented among this safety working group by the AIGCP through Plugge and Spekenbrink, who manage women’s teams Jumbo-Visma and Team DSM, respectively; the CPA's Bugno, who's association represents riders through its women's chapter; and AIOCC organisers includes Gouvenou, at ASO, that run women's events La Course, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche Wallonne.

Cyclingnews understands that the women's rider association, The Cyclists' Alliance (TCA), and the new women's teams association, UNIO, were not part of the safety working group meetings because they were not formally recognised by the UCI [at that time – ed.]. 

UNIO and CPA Women have now been granted recognition by the sport governing body and are expected to be included in meetings about the sport. In addition, both associations have recently received a financial contribution from the UCI.

DENIA SPAIN JANUARY 07 Elena Cecchini of Italy Anna Van Der Breggen of The Netherlands World Champion Jersey Roxane Fournier of France Chantal van den BroekBlaak of The Netherlands and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of South Africa during the Team SD Worx 2021 Training Camp teamsdworx on January 07 2021 in Denia Spain Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Moolman-Pasio training with her new teammates in Spain (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Moolman-Pasio said, however, that there have been no women who directly represent the women’s peloton at the safety working group. 

"There are currently no representatives for the women’s peloton on the safety commission that was started toward the end of last year," Moolman-Pasio said.

"It came about as a collective cry from the peloton and various other bodies within cycling, and we felt like we needed to take race safety a little bit more seriously and there needed to be this commission that could meet and get input from all the different stakeholders around safety because there was a feeling that the responsibility of safety was slipping through the cracks and there wasn’t one accountable source for taking responsibility of safety. Of course it’s up to the race organisations to make sure that the races are safe but there was no one else, outside of the UCI, and there needed to be another accountable force when it comes to rider safety. 

"I can comment that there will be a women's representative from the women’s peloton on the safety commission, shortly, and that is due to the work of the CPA Women that really pushed that we have a representative," she added.

"There were no women involved in the decision-making on the ban of the 'super-tuck' or the 'forearms on the aero bars' positions." 

Since the UCI announced the ban on the 'super-tuck' and 'forearms-on-bars' aerodynamic positions some riders have criticised the move suggesting that they were not informed. Trentin, the riders' representative, hit back at the criticism stating that over 800 professional riders were notified back in November and December over the potential changes that were implemented. Riders were also given the chance to download the information via Telegram group messenger application, but that fewer than 20 riders opened the email and downloaded the documents that outlined the possible rule changes.

Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) confirmed that the notification and email sent to 800 riders was distributed by the CPA and that he was one of 16 riders to read the information last November.

Moolman-Pasio, who is the rider ambassador for Africa at CPA Women, told Cyclingnews that she did not receive an email or notification regarding the safety measures and that she was not aware of any other women in the peloton who were included in the communication. 

In addition, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, who races professionally for Trek-Segafredo, wrote on Twitter that she did not receive an email communication. Cordon-Ragot is also the co-vice-president of the Association Française des Coureures Cyclistes (AFCC), a national women's association founded in 2019 to campaign for the professional recognition of female cyclists, and which is also the national riders association for France at the CPA Women.

"I take Matteo’s word for it [that 800 notifications were sent out and less than 20 riders responded] because he’s a good guy and puts a lot of time and energy into these things, and I believe that what he is saying is correct," Moolman-Pasio said.

"This email was not sent to any women, that is for sure. Until this point, women, and the women’s peloton, have had no say or input regarding these new [safety] rules that were passed."

Moolman-Pasio said that she respects the hard work and time that Trentin has put into representing the men’s peloton with regard to safety measures. She also suggested that professional athletes can be so consumed by their cycling lives; training, racing, and that it can be a challenge to respond to emails and other admin responsibilities, and she understands why there might not have been a good response from the men’s peloton to the emails and Telegram group notification on rider safety measures.

"I have had a conversation with Matteo Trentin, more recently, regarding what the safety commission entails and what the workload is, and my comment to that is that I have a lot of respect for him. He has definitely taken responsibility on his shoulders to represent the men’s peloton, together with Philippe Gilbert," Moolman-Pasio said. 

"He explained to me the time that they spent together with the UCI and other stakeholders in the off-season, and the time that was spent on meetings. I have a lot of respect for the time that he has put into it, and from my conversations with him, it is clear that he takes it very seriously, and that he likes to take on this responsibility to make sure cycling is safer for everyone."

Moolman-Pasio explained that Telegram is a messenger application used to set up groups and send out notifications. For example, she said that the CPA have created groups on the Telegram messaging application for some women who are members of the CPA or who have seen the message about the group. There is also a separate group set up by the CPA for the men to update riders from the men's peloton.

Cyclingnews has reached out to the UCI, CPA and CPA Women to ask how many female riders were included in the group of 800 professional riders notified of the safety measures, however, neither body have responded before publishing this story.

"I'm not sure how many men are on the Telegram group for the men, but it was only amongst the men," Moolman-Pasio said of the safety measures notification circulated to 800 professional riders.

Moolman-Pasio said she understands Trentin's frustration at both the lack of response to his efforts to improve safety on behalf the men's peloton combined with the criticism that some riders have now expressed over the changes.

"I understand Matteo’s frustration," she added. "He is putting a lot of hard work into this and he is taking the time to ask his peers, and as is the case with many things in cycling, as professional cyclists we kind of get into this selfish mentality and focus on what we are doing, and we don’t always pay attention to the admin or the questions or the emails, and then we throw our arms up in the air when something happens. There was an opportunity for the [men's] peloton to give their feedback and to object to this ban but no one took the time to do that."