A heavy and avoidable crash at the finish of Monday’s first stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco, which saw a dozen riders hit the pavement and at least two suffer serious, season-threatening injuries, led the Professional Cyclists Association (CPA) to initiate a five-minute protest at the start of Tuesday’s second stage.
The crash was caused by a series metal poles along the finishing straight in the town of Bilbao. The poles are normally used to control car traffic. Orange cones, placed on top of the poles like hats, were the only indication of impending danger. The cones were not taped off, there was no man with a flag cautioning riders, and no padding on the poles themselves.
Several riders sustained serious injuries as a result of the crash. Peter Stetina (BMC) broke his tibia, patella, and four ribs; Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) broke a finger; Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) is still in the hospital, as doctors wanted to keep him under observation for 48 hours. Half a dozen others were affected by the crash but escaped without major injuries.
“It was important today to make it known that the riders will not accept ‘good enough’ from the race organizations and the UCI in regard to rider safety,” BMC’s Brent Bookwalter said. “The protest was not initiated by any one team or any one rider – but rather by the CPA, which exists to protect the riders’ interests. And safety is a big one of them.
“While the protest was good for awareness, it actually does little to enforce accountability from those who are charged with keeping us safe when it comes to avoidable dangers like yesterday. For that, we need every rider to become involved and engaged on the topic and for the CPA to aggressively pursue accountability from the races and the UCI. We cannot forget what happened yesterday. The sport deserves better and is capable of far better.”
The CPA, which functions as a union for professional cyclists and has played an increasingly important role in rider/organizer disputes this season, called on all riders to observe five minutes of protest after the starting gun was fired on Tuesday, “in order to protest against what happened yesterday,” according to a CPA statement.
“The CPA delegate and president of the Spanish Riders Association, José Luis de Santos, who is present at the race, will represent the riders’ instances towards the organization asking a higher attention to the safety of the cyclists during the performance of their job,” the statement reads.
The goal of the protest was to attract “the attention of the organizers, the UCI and the media about this important issue,” according to the statement.