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Riders association: Race organizers aren’t committed to safety

The North American riders' association says race organizers aren't addressing true safety concerns with roster reduction plans.

The ASO, RCS Sport, and Flanders Classics claim to be focused on safety, but a prominent riders association says the race organizers’ roster reduction announcement that made waves Friday is more about economics than reducing rider injury.

“Race organizers have not shown that existing races with smaller pelotons are safer. Race organizers are using the issue of safety to pass reforms that are really about economics,” said Michael Carcaise, executive director of the Association of North American Professional Road Cyclists (ANAPRC), which is affiliated with the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA), the international riders association.

Impatient with the UCI’s slow action, organizers said they’ll reduce the size of each team by one (from nine to eight in grand tours and eight to seven in other events). “We wanted to give a signal; we’ve been talking about safety and safety for many years, but the reality is nothing changes,” RCS Sport cycling director Mauro Vegni said. “If the UCI says ‘no’ then that’s not great. They are saying they want safety, making safety commissions, but then they don’t decide anything. [Too many meetings] without ever making a decision.”

“I think everybody agrees with Mr. Vegni’s statement that it is time for the UCI to act,” Carcaise responded. “If race organizers like RCS are committed to making races safer they should support the immediate adoption of new UCI Regulations for safer course design, and for how obstacles and hazards are managed on the course. These new regulations have been on the table at UCI commission meetings over the past 6 months — many of which Mr. Vegni attended personally.”

The CPA first proposed an updated safety plan to UCI commissions in April, but, so far, the UCI has not issued any binding rules to hold race organizers accountable. In that plan, the CPA specifically states that it is not in favor of smaller teams unless “a thorough quantitative study is completed.”

Carcaise added, “It has not been proven that a smaller peloton makes races safer. Whether the peloton is 198 or 175 guys, there are still 45 riders fighting for a space at the front that can only hold five of them.”

He went on to raise concerns that smaller teams in major races will lead teams to cut their rosters, putting some riders out of work. “They should be honest and make the economic case for reducing the peloton, and if it comes to pass it should only proceed with a major contribution from the race organizers to the rider’s career transition fund, because many riders will end their racing career and need training for a new job.”

Currently, the transition fund is covered by only contributions from active riders — five percent of prize money from international elite races.

Caley Fretz contributed to this report.