Rob Discart tells Cycling Weekly that crashes are caused by "riders not paying enough attention", but concedes that the barriers used in the race aren't ideal
The organiser of the Eneco Tour has defended the use of a type of crowd barrier that has drawn criticism from riders at the race this week.
On stage two of this year’s Eneco Tour, Topsport-Vlaanderen rider Pieter Vanspeybrouck clipped the metal foot of a crowd barrier and fell, bringing down Breschel in the process. Both abandoned the race: the Belgian overnight, Breschel during the following stage.
However, race organiser Rob Discart told Cycling Weekly that the barriers should not be blamed for the accident.
“I don’t think they are dangerous,” he said. “I think it’s better to have the barriers without the feet on the street side. But I don’t think that the barriers are the reason for riders falling down.
“If you’re honest, and you look at most of the falls of riders, it is riders who didn’t pay enough attention. They hit the wheel of the rider in front of them, or they left their line.”
Crowd barriers line the route of the Eneco Tour for approximately the final kilometre of each stage; those inside the final 200 metres are provided by the race organisers and do not feature protruding feet. The responsibility for the remaining barriers falls on local authorities, and it is here that problems have arisen.
Riders at this year’s race have voiced their concern at the use of the barriers and the potential safety risks, particularly given the technical and stressful nature of racing in Belgium and the Netherlands.
“It’s stupid to crash. They are dangerous, they are sticking out a little bit, and it’s small roads here in Holland and Belgium. There’s not space for everybody,” Breschel told Cycling Weekly.
Eisel added: “This [what Discart is saying] is just ridiculous, it’s like, ‘I’ll close my eyes, it’s not my fault, it didn’t happen.’
“There should be a rule [about them]. I can’t think that safer barriers are so much more expensive. If it’s in the WorldTour then we could use the same barriers in every race. I would buy them and rent them out to the organisers.
“But it’s a lame excuse. Saying the barriers are fine… they’re not fine, there’s a foot standing out.”
“There are bigger problems in cycling,” said Mick Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo). “But I think slowly, slowly these issues have to be fixed. The whole cycling community has to keep pushing. It’s not a complex issue.”
Barriers with protruding feet were reported to have contributed to a horror crash involving Zdenek Stybar at the Eneco Tour last year. The Etixx-Quickstep rider was leading the race when he crashed in the final 500m of stage four in Ardooie and suffered severe facial injuries.
Discart disputed reports that the barriers were at fault for Stybar’s crash. He added that he and his team had analysed footage from 2014 and said that Stybar crashed due to colliding with a rider in front.
“If I should have the possibility to say to a local organiser, ‘we prefer that you use the barriers [without the feet],’ then of course we would choose that, but unfortunately they are not available on all places,” he added.