Kittel: Safety deserves same priority as anti-doping

Marcel Kittel sounds off on the death of Demoitié, saying the UCI and organizers need to prioritize rider safety and make meaningful improvements.

In a lengthy post on Facebook Monday, sprint star Marcel Kittel sounded off on the Gent-Wevelgem crash that resulted in the death of Belgian Antoine Demoitié, demanding that rider safety be prioritized.

“It’s necessary to set higher and better standards for professional bike races and that’s not up to the riders but to the organisers and the UCI. It’s easy to say that the riders are doing the race and therefore have the responsibility for it. But it’s simply not true. There are so many things in a race that are beyond the control of a rider,” he wrote.

Kittel compared the issue of rider safety to that of doping, saying that the UCI needs to devote the same level of attention to safety issues, be they incidents with caravan vehicles, or unsafe race courses. “Cycling’s biggest problem was doping and still has to be fought. But the safety issues that are obvious, should get the same attention and priority as the fight for clean sport,” he wrote.

He cited a number of recent, high-profile crashes, including Greg Van Avermaet at San Sebastien, Peter Sagan at the Vuelta, and Peter Stetina at Pais Vasco.

“[The] risk is calculated and, I don’t want to lie here, also one of the reasons why I love cycling,” Kittel admitted, talking about the crucial moments of a race when riders sometimes push beyond their limits. But he drew a line between the calculated risks taken by riders, in the bunch and the risks presented by outside factors, such as the motorcycle which landed on Demoitié and resulted in his death.

Kittel proposed a few improvements to address concerns, writing, “It would be good to see more experienced, well trained drivers in cars and on motorbikes, a yearly statistic that keeps track of crashes in races in order to see a positive or negative development and more signs/flashing lights that indicate sharp corners or dangerous points.”

For now, he and his Etixx – Quick-Step team will head to the races Tuesday, Three Days of De Panne, where Wanty – Groupe Gobert will be absent, mourning its lost teammate.