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UCI to meet with riders, teams, race organisers to improve safety

Riders tried to avoid the crash on stage 1 of the Tour de Pologne
The crash in Tour de Pologne was just the start of terrible incidents to afflict road cycling since racing resumed (Image credit: Getty Images)

The UCI reaffirmed on Friday that it would take steps to improve safety for riders, with the UCI due to sit down with members of associations representing the race organisers (AIOCC), teams (AIGCP) and riders (CPA) to formulate a "global plan" to improve rider safety.

The move comes following serious incidents since the re-start to the road season after the coronavirus cancellations, including a terrible opening stage of the Tour de France in Nice where the first rain storm in weeks turned roads into a slick, soapy mess that led to numerous crashes.

Earlier in August, Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quickstep) suffered devastating facial injuries in a clash with rival Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma). Groenewegen closed the door on Jakobsen in the high-speed opening sprint in the Tour de Pologne and Jakobsen crashed into and through the barriers, sending the barricade flying into the path of the rest of the sprinters, injuring Marc Sarreau (Groupama-FDJ), Damien Touze (Cofidis) and Eduard Prades (Movistar).

While the UCI took disciplinary action against Groenewegen, riders blamed the race organisers at the Tour de Pologne for using a downhill stretch in the final few hundred meters and for using barriers that were insufficient to protect the riders.

In Il Lombardia, Jakobsen's teammate Remco Evenepoel had a horrifying crash over a low stone wall on the descent of the Sormano, fracturing his hip. In the Critérium du Dauphiné, a pothole and gravel-strewn descent caused several crashes taking Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) out of the race. 

Riders were also critical of the course in the Tour de Wallonie and in the Tour de Luxembourg. In the latter, organisers failed to properly secure the course from traffic leading to neutralisation of the first stage and a crash later in the race when a truck made its way into the riders' path.

The UCI said it would hold a meeting "to develop a joint diagnosis" and said that safety "although remaining the responsibility of the organiser, must be guaranteed by a joint effort from all cycling’s families."

Riders have lost faith in the CPA's ability to advocate for their interests, with Jos van Emden (Jumbo-Visma) outlining 10 rider-safety proposals, saying "Cycling is the best sport there is. It's also a dangerous sport that carries risks. But that does not mean that we have to accept all risks just like that," Van Emden said. 

"We want a voice, especially when it comes to safety. We are the ones who risk our body and limbs every day. We want a real trade union; we want real measures to remove unnecessary risks from our profession. We are cyclists, not circus animals."

The UCI Management Committee said it would extend the obligation for drivers in the race convoy to all of the drivers to participate in a briefing before races. The briefing had previously been mainly for drivers of the media at WorldTour events, but will now extend to all races on the UCI road calendar.

They have also finalized a concussion protocol that includes three phases: rapid diagnosis on-site immediately after a crash to determine if a rider should continue and, if the rider does continue, monitoring through to the finish and the next morning, as well as an active recovery programme after a concussion.

The move comes after Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) raced some 90 kilometres on stage 13 of the Tour de France after a hard crash in which he took a blow to the head. The Frenchman could barely stand up but was put back on his bike and finished the stage, only to discover afterward that he had a 'small haemorrhage' on his brain.