Vuelta a Espana: Tinkov threatens boycott over Paulinho incident

Rider safety took centre stage again Wednesday when a race moto struck Tinkoff-Saxo's Sergio Paulinho near the beginning of stage 11, eventually forcing him to abandon the race and leading team owner Oleg Tinkov to threaten a boycott.

The incident comes on the heels of a similar collision during stage 8 that knocked Tinkoff-Saxo's Peter Sagan out of the race, leading to open letters published today from BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz and the Tinkoff team, which threatened to take legal action against the race.

Contacted by Cyclingnews earlier today for a response to the Ochowicz letter, the UCI said it will conduct a full review of vehicle movement within the peloton before the 2016 season.

"The safety of riders and all involved in UCI events is the top priority of the Union Cycliste Internationale," the UCI said in a statement sent to Cyclingnews.

"The UCI Road Commission met today and discussed in depth the security issues that have been raised during the 2015 season. One of the main topics of discussion related to the circulation of vehicles within the race. A full review of the current regulations will be made before the start of the 2016 season, including those governing the conduct of drivers in races and the licensing requirements for the drivers."

In reaction to the latest incident with Paulinho, Tinkoff-Saxo owner Oleg Tinkov threatened on Twitter that his team could boycott the rest of the race.

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"[Paulinho] was alone at the front of the race as the peloton was set to tackle the first climb to the Collada de Beixalis summit, approximately three kilometers into the race," according to the team statement. "Just before the start of the ascent, Paulinho took a right turn at fast pace, rapidly approaching a TV motorbike that was in front of him in the middle of the road, in breach of safety regulations. Just as Paulinho was reaching the motorbike, its driver did not make any apparent move to avoid the collision, continued on its course and hit Paulinho on his left leg."

The collision did not cause Paulinho to fall, but it left him bleeding "intensely," according to the team statement. "In the heat of the battle, Paulinho rode away but as the bleeding wouldn't stop, he was attended by the race doctor. Paulinho had to lie down on the road as the race doctor applied the first staples on the wound in an effort to close it. The Portuguese rider decided to continue racing and went back on his bike, trying to make it to the top of the climb."

The pain proved too much for Paulinho, however, and he was forced to abandon a few hundred meters before the stage's first summit. He later went to a local hospital, where he received six internal and 11 external stitches.

"Given the seriousness of the two accidents that involved riders of Tinkoff-Saxo at the Vuelta a España, the team will consider whether it is safe to continue racing under the current arrangements," the team said.

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