A mid-corner speed bump with less than 150 meters to the finish line at Le Tour de La Provence caused the crash it was destined to cause, sending bodies and bikes flipping and sliding together into the barriers. The dangerous finish straight came after a dangerous finish circuit, according to riders, and led them to, once again, voice concerns about a lack of strict UCI regulations governing race course safety.
“It was a little nutso,” said Cannondale’s Alex Howes over the phone two hours after Wednesday’s finish. “You came down a hill, a fast, sweeping left hander, with traffic furniture in the middle of it. And then maybe 20 to 30 meters after that was a hard right hand, a U-turn, and on the exit of the U-turn there was a bunch of poles and stuff everywhere. Maybe 10 poles and one hay bale. Then a few more corners, and then a nice, sweet speed bump with 150m to go.”
Etixx – Quick-Step’s Davide Martinelli and Fernando Gaviria crossed the line with a healthy gap over the rest of the field, after the man just behind them lost control entering the final corner, skittering on his backside across the road and then down the back side of the speed bump as his bike tangled and brought down half a dozen riders behind him.
The last corner wasn’t the only issue with the race, according to Howes.
“Today was pretty nutso, but yesterday’s circuit was really bad,” he said. “There were cars driving against the race at certain points, parked cars all over the circuit. Some of it was kind of so ridiculous that guys were backing off a little bit.”
Since Peter Stetina’s knee-shattering crash last year, calls for improved course safety have grown steadily in volume. Wednesday’s incident in Provence comes less than a month after riders protested an unnecessary crash in Qatar caused by a lack of barriers in front of a raised median. The CPA, the closest thing riders have to a union, and its North American branch ANAPRC have been particularly vocal, but the UCI has yet to make any major changes.
The UCI has detailed guidelines for race organizers, but no formal regulations that allow the governing body to punish those who produce unsafe courses.
“If something like this would happen at the Tour de France, everybody knows about it. They have somebody drive through and check that stuff out,” Howes said. “But this is a brand-new race, a small race, if somebody did come in and inspect it, I’d be shocked. I don’t think they would let any of this fly.
“We give the UCI the power to do things like that, for the most part I think race organizers are open to the idea of having some sort of regulation, but there is no punishment there, there’s no accountability.”
The UCI was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.
“I don’t want to totally bash on the race, the weather’s nice, and the courses are good until the circuits,” Howes said. “I think it’d be good to take a look at what they’re doing in the finals here. Honestly, I think for the longevity of the race itself, it’s not good to have finals like this in February. If you want to attract bigger name riders, you’re not going to get Quintana, Contador here with finishes like this.”