Rider safety has become an increasingly pressing item on the cycling agenda in recent years, and the UCI will hold a working group at Il Lombardia next week, bringing riders, teams and race organisers together to discuss further regulations for next season.
The Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA), the Association Internationale des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels (AIGCP) and the Association Internationale des Organisateurs de Courses Cyclistes (AIOCC), will represent riders, teams, and race organisers respectively.
In addition to the planned talks, the UCI announced it has already taken action to improve safety at one of the final races of this season - its own road World Championships in Qatar next month. The road races start out in the desert before finishing with laps of Doha's Corniche, with the following measures set to be imposed:
• Road works to remove and adapt traffic islands to improve the racing line of the final 1.5 kilometres of the circuit;
• The position of barriers will be appropriately adapted to take into account the width of the road in certain sections;
• The caravan will feature smaller, lighter trail-type motorbikes without panniers;
• All vehicles will be driven by people with significant previous experience of driving at races.
The issue of rider safety has come into focus in the past couple of years due to an alarming string of incidents, with Antoine Demoitié losing his life after being hit by a motorbike at Gent-Wevelgem, and Stig Broeckx still in a coma after a similar incident at the Belgium Tour in May. Numerous other riders have been involved in collisions with vehicles, while other incidents have arisen from course design – from barriers to road furniture – as the scars on Peter Stetina’s knee would attest.
Earlier this year, the UCI announced it had introduced new guidelines governing in-race vehicles, but they essentially stressed the importance of following the existing rules, with punishment for those acting negligently. As such, ahead of the UCI’s June management committee, the CPA called on the governing body to take concrete action, and tabled a list of proposals to enhance safety.
The group also claimed the UCI was shirking its duties in letting the bulk of the responsibility for safety lie with each individual race organiser instead of setting out and imposing universal measures for UCI-sanctioned events.
The ‘Security and Technical Regulations’ working group one the eve of Lombardy next Friday will therefore be a welcome channel of dialogue and a chance for constructive progress ahead of the 2017 season.
“I am happy with the progress and investment we have made in 2016," said UCI president Brian Cookson, who has also overseen the introduction of the Extreme Weather Protocol, on-site technical advisers, and regulations covering level crossings. "We know that there is more work to do and I am looking forward to working with the AIGCP, the CPA, AIOCC and others to ensure that we create the best possible conditions for riders.”
The working group, according to the UCI’s statement, will cover a range of topics including “the maximum number of riders in the race, safe course design, in particular within the final three kilometres of a race, a set of best practice guidelines for race finishes adapted to different course conditions, including reconnoitre and hazard identification, protection from obstacles and the finish.”
The issue of vehicles will also be on the agenda, with the UCI promising to publish a ‘Race Caravan guide’ for the 2017 season, designed to “govern all aspects of the safety and security of road races and will include rules defining the allocation and position of vehicles within a race".