‘New race safety regulations are great, but not enough’ says former pro

Former rider Cédric Vasseur says that the UCI's new rules relating to rider safety in races do not go far enough, saying more attention should be paid to final five kilometres

The UCI‘s new race caravan safety regulations help, says former professional cyclist and riders’ union president Cédric Vasseur, but there needs to be more done, especially for the final kilometres of races.

Cycling’s governing body issued its 38-page Guidelines for Vehicle Circulation in the Race Convoy on Monday, “aimed at all drivers of vehicles in a road cycling event”.

>> Subscribe to Cycling Weekly this Autumn and save 35%. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<

It follows last year, when Antoine Demoitié (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) died in Ghent-Wevelgem and Stig Broeckx (Lotto-Soudal) suffer brain damage in another vehicle incident.

Spectators on the road during the Vuelta a San Juan

“What they did with the caravan is good, but the last five kilometres is perhaps more important than that,” Vasseur told Cycling Weekly.

>>> New rules for race cars and motorbikes introduced by UCI to improve rider safety

“Look at what happened in Spain over the last two years or just a few weeks ago in Argentina, where the last corner was not indicated well. It is good what the UCI is doing, but it is not enough.”

Vasseur raced through to his retirement 2007. He wore the Tour de France‘s yellow jersey and won two stages in his home race. Afterwards, he presided over the riders’ union, the CPA.

The CPA’s new president Gianni Bugno, as well as other stakeholders, had a hand in developing the new document. The pages clarify how drivers of vehicles within a race should behave.

Cedric Vasseur winning stage ten of the 2007 Tour de France. Photo: Graham Watson

A separate working group with Professional Cycling Council (PCC) is supposed to be setting up stricter guidelines for race organisers.

Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) crashed into a three-foot high metal bollard left in the road with 2.5 kilometres remaining in the Vuelta a España’s stage five last year. He abandoned the race with a broken collarbone.

It was not the first time. In the 2015 País Vasco stage race, 10 cyclists crashed due to a bollard in the final 400 metres. Adam Yates (Orica) broke a finger and Peter Stetina (then with BMC Racing) suffered a broken right tibia, patella and four ribs. The American said he could have died.

“You must consider two types of races: the races they put on by professional organisers like ASO and the ones by the organisers who are not professional. Those races very differently for the riders,” Vasseur continued.

“In Argentina, the Tour de San Juan a few of weeks ago, you had a car in the middle of the bunch. I saw the stage where 500 metres to go, there were people everywhere in the road. I’m surprised there were no serious injuries. This is something that is just not acceptable for the safety of the riders.”

Vasseur now commentates for France 2 television. He is directly in the race giving colour reports from the back of a motorcycle for Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France.

“I do understand that we are not playing tennis on a closed field but cycling on open roads with speed bumps and roundabouts every 200 metres. I was a professional for 15 years, from 1995 to 2007, and now I’m on the motorbike, and I can tell you how unbelievable how difficult it is with the road furniture. Now it’s very complicated. And they’re going faster and crashing harder now.

“I do not understand why there is not a special department in the UCI to check the last five kilometres of each race. Perhaps the money is not there. Perhaps UCI needs to demote the race to a lower category if there is a problem, but do you think the UCI has the power to say something like that to the Vuelta organiser?”