Covid-19 was not the only reason the 2020 racing season will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. There was also an unusually large number of serious accidents, starting with Fabio Jakobsen’s horrific crash in the Tour de Pologne, in which the race barriers collapsed on impact. Then Remco Evenepoel crashed into a ravine in Il Lombardia, Steven Kruijswijk’s fell on a pothole-strewn road in the Critérium du Dauphiné and many riders crashed on the slippery roads around Nice at the Tour de France – leading to a mass rider protest and slowdown.
The UCI heard the many rider complaints regarding race safety and it has acted. In December the organisation announced 14 new safety measures that will be implemented in men’s and women’s road cycling starting this year. The key measures include the deployment of safety managers at events, a database of incidents with which to target specific safety actions, revised measures for organisers, drivers, teams and riders, and improved security and barrier standards.
The sport’s governing body also created a working group dedicated to rider safety following the race accidents that left Jakobsen in an induced coma, Evenepoel with a fractured pelvis and Bora-Hansgrohe rider Max Schachmann with a fractured collarbone after being wiped out by a car in the final kilometres of Il Lombardia.
Starting this year, the safety of each race will be overseen by a UCI Safety Manager and an Event Safety Manager named by race organisers. In addition, the risks of the proposed route will be evaluated weeks ahead of the race using a database of past incidents with the goal of implementing targeted actions to reduce the risk of accidents.
The new UCI safety measures will be implemented for race organisers, drivers, regulators, TV production crews and race teams. And barriers along the race route (especially at finals and bunch sprints) will have to meet higher safety standards.
Organisers, teams and riders will also be held accountable regarding unsafe actions, such as the discarding of waste and other objects outside dedicated zones, with riders being held responsible for throwing drink bottles onto the road or in the peloton and taking dangerous positions on the bike, especially during descents.
Other new safety measures include “the enhancement and modernisation of the specifications concerning obstacle protection elements used along the course, as well as the harmonisation of signalisation used along the race route; the improvement of communication with riders when important decisions are taken, as well as the creation of a more detailed protocol dealing with the neutralisation of events; better supervision when it comes to the use of equipment by teams that could cause varying problems (for example disc brakes and bottle cages).”
Most of these measures will come into force for men’s and women’s professional cycling this year, with an initial focus on UCI WorldTour and UCI Women’s WorldTour events. The relevant measures will then progressively be rolled out across the UCI International Road Calendar.
“The measures announced today enable us to take an important step forward in the reinforcement of safety at road races,” said UCI President David Lappartient. “Cycling now has a solid plan of action, which we will continue to improve in consultations with all concerned.”