Mark Cavendish and Alexander Kristoff were tucked behind the last of their lead-out men at 65kph when the Tour of Qatar peloton flowed around and then crashed atop a raised concrete road divider strewn with sign posts and speed camera poles — unprotected by barriers — just over 500 meters from the finish of the race’s second stage.
It was eerily reminiscent of the scene that ended the 2015 season and permanently scarred the leg of American Peter Stetina: metal poles, a pile of torn spandex, bent and broken equipment, glasses half off faces. Quite a lot of road rash. There was more luck this time, as no major injuries were reported, but riders say that game of chance and inches should never have been played.
They’re also saying that the Qatar crash was avoidable, and are clamoring for the the UCI to strengthen its punishments for race organizers that fail to create safe courses.
“How much has Qatar paid for the UCI worlds bid? The 2019 IAAF world championships? The 2022 World Cup? Of course they could afford a few more kilometers of barriers,” said Michael Carcaise, executive director of Association of North American Professional Cyclists (ANAPRC). “This is not an unsolvable or prohibitively expensive problem. This is the UCI failing to do its number one job: make rules and enforce them.”
Responses submitted by pro riders to a new rider race report form created by ANAPRC indicate that the crash Tuesday was caused by a lack of barriers in a key section of the final kilometer.
“The crash with 500m to go was due to a lack of proper barricades to block off a turn lane and island. It could’ve easily been avoided,” reads a response submitted to the form by one of the day’s racers.
Despite the fact that proper barricading could have kept riders upright, and despite the fact that the UCI produces a comprehensive guide to creating safe race finishes, history suggests that little will be done. At present, the UCI has little recourse against organizers because its guidelines are not binding, but are mere suggestions of best practice.
ANAPRC, which is part of the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA), called Tuesday for the current course guidelines to be turned into regulations.
“Riders are the only stakeholders held accountable in pro cycling. The UCI must start holding race organizers to a higher standard for safety. Their suggested guidelines are not good enough,” Carcaise said.
Riders are increasingly vocal regarding race safety, which they correctly term workplace safety. The CPA is expanding this year to represent more of the pro peloton, further enhancing the voice of riders in such matters.
— Brent Bookwalter (@brentbookwalter) February 9, 2016
The organizers of Vuelta al Pais Vasco, where Stetina smashed his knee on a metal pole that was stuck in the middle of the road, marked only by a small orange cone, have seen no repercussions.
“We are not asking for all risk to be removed from pro cycling,” Carcaise told VeloNews via email. “We simply ask that race organizers use the most basic common sense to make courses safe in the most dangerous part of the course — the last 5km.”