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New CPA president Adam Hansen wants to overhaul cycling safety: ‘It’s a bit of a nightmare’

The Australian, who was voted as president of the riders' union in March, also wants to build bridges with the peloton.

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Former rider and recently elected president of the Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA) Adam Hansen wants to overhaul safety standards in cycling.

Hansen, who retired from racing at the end of last year, was voted in as the CPA president in March in the organization’s first online election. Since his election, the Australian has been busy canvassing the men’s and women’s pelotons for their thoughts on improving safety within races.

VeloNews caught up with Hansen at the start of Paris-Roubaix Femmes, where he and CPA Women assistant director Marion Clignet visited all 25 teams to discuss their concerns. While some safety standards, such as positioning of barriers, are written into the UCI rules, many are not and Hansen would like to change that.

“I want to make sure that the riders know that we’re here for them and that they know we’re representing them in the right way,” Hansen told VeloNews in Denain. “What I’m trying to do is that I want to understand the safety side a lot better. I want to have a set of rules in place by the UCI where the safety standards are much safer for the riders.

“I’m trying to talk to the riders and ask what they want. For example, if there’s an island in the road do they want a person with a whistle, padding, or a sign? How they want it. After that, I’ll draft up a set of rules and then I’ll go to them again and ask if this is what they want and, if it is, we’ll try to make a UCI rule because, at the moment, there are only recommendations.”

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Prior to the Paris-Roubaix weekend, Hansen had spent a few days in the Basque Country speaking to the peloton there. The six-day race was marred in controversy for what many riders and teams labeled a “dangerous” finish to stage 2.

Several riders crashed on a narrow and steep descent toward the finish line, including Marc Soler and Clément Champoussin.

It’s not the first time that race has been criticized for its course design, while other races have also gained attention for failures in safety standards — Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) was one of several riders that crashed out of Milan-San Remo when they hit an unmarked bike rack that stuck out in the road.

“The thing is, there are no rules, there are only recommendations, and this is a bit of a nightmare. We need a proper set of standard protocols and the organizers because they can do what they want because there are only recommendations,” Hansen said. “If they read this, I would also like to see teams also have some input into how this should be because the teams invest in the riders.

“The more input I can get, the better draft I can have of the rules. I had a meeting last week with ASO and the Vuelta people and they asked us what we wanted. They want to listen to us. It seems like there is some missing communication on this, which is a shame. I’m trying to bring it all together and make it work.”

As part of his safety proposals, Hansen has also put forward the idea of changing up the three-kilometer rule to try and cut the number of high-speed crashes in sprint finishes.

The three-kilometer rule applies to flat stages and gives riders the same time as the group they were in if they suffer a mechanical or crash in the final three kilometers.

Winning over the peloton

When Hansen became the CPA president, he took over long-term leader Gianni Bugno, who had been in the role since 2010.

During Bugno’s tenure at the CPA, there were often strained relationships between the organization and the riders that it was supposed to be representing.

In 2020, Michael Mørkøv described the CPA as a “worthless organization” following a stage of the Tour de Wallonie due to unsafe road surfaces being used in the route. His sentiments were felt by others in the peloton, leading to talks about a breakaway union.

The CPA has also received criticism for the way it ran its voting system, which previously saw board members casting block votes for their countries. It meant that many riders were effectively ruled out of voting. Meanwhile, riders from nations without a board member could vote individually, but they had to be physically present to cast their vote.

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In 2018, Chris Froome likened it to a “dictatorship” in a post on social media. Hansen wants to repair the relationship between the CPA and says that the new online voting system, which is run through an app, will help riders have more control over the organization and the sport as a whole.

“What I want to do is improve this relationship and make all the riders aware that we want to represent the men and the women. Road racing all goes under the same rules. We’re here for them and I want them to know that,” he said. “They can always reach out. My job is to help them. I want them to know that, and coming here [to Paris-Roubaix] is to show that if they need anything they can come to us.

“I want to do more listening and do what the riders want. We’ve got the My CPA app in now, which they can use for voting. In the past, [the riders] didn’t like the voting system. Now, there’s no excuse because everyone can go on and have their individual vote and it’s really one rider, one vote.”

Hansen is also keen to improve the relationship with the women’s peloton and the other rider union. The CPA set up a women’s cycling arm in 2017 at the same time as former rider Iris Slappendel, and others, created The Cyclists’ Alliance.

There has been tension between the two organizations and last season the CPA threatened to sue TCA for what it called “fake news” about prize money management. TCA had asked for a consultation on how prize money in the women’s peloton. The CPA is the only rider union recognized by cycling’s governing body, the UCI.

“Last week I spoke with the Cyclists’ Alliance, Iris is here and I spoke with her today and I said to her that she should come with me, and we should do it together. I’m open to this. She couldn’t because she’s here for GCN, but I still gave her one of the brochures,” Hansen said. “I don’t care where the information comes from, I just want the information to go to the riders.

“I appreciate everything that she’s done because she wants the best for riders, we want the best for riders, so we have no reason not to work together. I said to her last week, I want to make sure that every second week we are communicating with TCA. I think it’s wonderful what they’re doing, and they take a bit of workload from us, so that’s ok.”

In addition to improving relationships with the women’s peloton, Hansen wants to set up an official Joint Agreement, which regulates contracts between teams and riders. There is currently one in place for the men, which is renewed every two years, but the women do not have one.

“I want to be a bit proactive with that so I’ve been speaking with the women if they have agents then I get the contract with the agents and we should set the joint agreement the way they want it because the agents will be representing the riders if they have any kind of dispute. There are a lot of things that we want to do, especially in improving the relationship,” he said.

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