Ochowicz wrote an open letter to the governing body’s president, Brian Cookson, on Monday. It follows this weekend’s events, where BMC cyclist Danilo Wyss fell due to a TV motorbike in La Drôme Classic and a medic’s motorbike clipped Stig Broeckx (Lotto-Soudal) in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
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“This has got to stop before the headlines in the future are of a more disturbing nature than what we have seen in 2015 and now again in 2016,” Ochowicz wrote. “To the UCI, I am turning to you for answers and solutions.”
The American team manager already penned a letter last year when a television motorbike caused his rider to crash in the Clásica San Sebastián. On a climb travelling at slow speeds, the motorbike swerved and clipped the back wheel of Greg Van Avermaet. He went from leading to rolling in a grassy ditch. Brit Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) won the race.
In the Tour of Flanders last spring, the Shimano neutral car knocked both Jesse Sergent and Sébastien Chavanel off their bikes. Motorbikes did the same to Jakob Fuglsang in the Tour de France, and Sergio Paulinho and Peter Sagan in the Vuelta a España. The collisions resulted in broken bones and missed races – already too much, says Ochowicz.
“On September 1, 2015, less than one year ago, I wrote a similar letter after an alarming number of crashes involving vehicles had taken place in the peloton since the beginning of the 2015 season.
“Despite my reaching out for help at that time, the problem became even more prominent as the season went on and we watched in disbelief. Now here I am again asking the powers to be to take notice,” Ochowicz wrote in his letter to Cookson.
“This weekend we saw two serious incidents take place that involved vehicles on the race course taking down riders on live television at La Drôme Classic in France and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in Belgium. Incredible!
“The riders deserve far more respect than what they are receiving from those who are responsible for protecting their safety. We all understand that there exists an element of danger in the sport of cycling from a number of places and conditions but no rider expects to be run down from behind by an over-enthusiastic pilot on a closed race course. Disgraceful!”
At the time this article was published, the UCI had not yet responded to Cycling Weekly as to how it plans to respond. The UCI’s Road Commission met in September and vowed to perform a “full review of the current regulations.”
Following Stig Broeckx’s incident on Sunday, Belgian team Lotto-Soudal filed a complaint and explained that it wants to see “concrete measures taken to increase the safety of the riders.”
Former professional and cyclists’ union president Cédric Vasseur said, “The UCI is not serious in facing this problem. They talk and say they will brainstorm, but it’s not about that now, you have to act at this point.”