Johan Vansummeren: more needs to be done to improve safety after spectator death

Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Vansummeren says the UCI needs to look at safety measures after 54-year-old woman is hit in feed zone during Belgian race

A feed-zone
(Image credit: Watson)

Belgian pro Johan Vansummeren, winner of the 2011 Paris-Roubaix, wants cycling's governing body, the UCI, to strengthen its race safety measures after a spectator's death on Sunday.

A rider collided with 54-year-old wife of ex-pro Ludwig Wynants while she was in the feed zone of the Brustem-Sint-Truiden race near Hasselt, Belgium. She later died of her injuries.

The rider, Jordi Van Dingenen, 18, said that a sudden strong wind blew him to one side while he reached to hand over his rain jacket and caused him to crash. He suffered a shoulder injury and a concussion.

"Who is not affected by such news is abnormal," Vansummeren told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. "What does the UCI do about safety? Simple: absolutely nothing."

The team Ag2r La Mondiale cyclist was involved in a separate incident in the 2014 Tour of Flanders. He collided with spectator Marie-Claire Moreels on a traffic island and abandoned with a black eye and cuts on his face, but Moreels remains partially paralysed.

Vansummeren explained that part of the problem is that top cyclists are unable to use ear-pieces for two-way communication in all but WorldTour races. To help them avoid danger, he suggested that the UCI could work with organisers to remove traffic islands and other calming measures for races.

"If we crash, it’s often on side of the road, and how often do you have obstacles there that have nothing to do with road safety? They could do what they do in Valkenburg [for the Amstel Gold Race], where they have detachable traffic islands,” added Vansummeren.

"I don't understand why the cycling federation does not impose more rules. Look at Formula One. After several serious accidents, they put their heads together. Nowadays the sport is safer than cycling."

The UCI's rules put the burden on the race organiser in most cases.

Rule 1.2.061 reads: "The organiser shall ensure that the race course or the competition grounds include no places or situations that could constitute a particular safety risk to anyone (riders, attendants, officials, spectators, etc)."

Ahead of 2014, the UCI prohibited cyclists from racing on sidewalks and dirt paths, something often seen when cyclists in the classics like Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad try to avoid cobble sectors. The rule was modified last spring, though, to let them do so as long as it does not create an unfair advantage or put fans in danger.

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