The CPA cyclists’ union has said the BinckBank Tour does not deserve to be a WorldTour race following continued complaints over rider safety.
The union says riders have raised concerns over narrow streets, unmarked road furniture and the road condition on the approach to finish lines.
“Since this race started [it] has proven to not deserve the WorldTour level despite evident problems for the safety of the riders, starting from the choice of the race course,” the CPA said in a statement.
“The participants are complaining uniformly about the narrow streets, the unmarked obstacles, the sudden curves and holes on the ground in proximity of the arrivals, made even more dangerous by the bad weather, which frequently rages in this area during the month of August, from the dangerous crossing of fans, from dangerous barriers.”
During the opening three stages, riders slammed race organisers for the ‘crazy and dangerous’ finals, with the tragic death of Bjorg Lambrecht still fresh in the minds of those within the world of cycling.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Tim Declerq said after stage three of the BinckBank Tour: “Hypocrisy of the cycling world. First we have a really touching minute of silence [for Bjorg Lambrecht], five minutes later we have to destroy each other again on a bike lane-wide parcours with a million corners.”
On stage three, in an incident unrelated to the organisation of the race, the peloton miraculously avoided a huge crash after a spectator stepped out onto the road as the bunch passed by.
Then, on stage five, Sam Bennett criticised the design of the barriers placed with 200m to go. The Irishman said: “This sport is dangerous enough, we race above 60km/h in a final like this. It is not acceptable! To the CPA, it’s time to show your presence.”
The president of the CPA, Gianni Bugno, said a UCI safety delegate arrived at the race ahead of the penultimate stage six, adding that under the current conditions it was not acceptable for riders to be racing.
“Our delegate reported the many problems to the organisers and to the UCI, whose safety delegate is finally coming today at the race. The riders are facing a city obstacle course,” Bugno said.
“I wonder, who authorised it? Tomorrow this race will end, but under these conditions it is not acceptable to ride.”
Bugno continued, saying that potential penalties given to race organisers is not enough, and that more needs to be done to protect riders from potential accidents.
“There are rules and they must be respected. At the moment we are not interested in listening only about penalties that may be imposed to the organiser, accidents must be prevented, we cannot go on like this,” Bugno said.
“Riders cannot risk their life because the organiser is not able to guarantee a certain type of safety standard. Problems like these are not admissible, an event organised in this way cannot be part of the WorldTour.”
“We are tired, the UCI thanks us for our reports but does not much to change the things. We believe in teamwork, in dialogue and in the work of the commissions, but we cannot afford not to be taken seriously. We can no longer accept this modus operandi. If this is the attractiveness of cycling to which the international federation is aiming, we are definitely going in the wrong direction,” he said.
The response from Binck Bank Tour management has been to say when they announced the course they emphasised that it was a ‘Flandrien route’, meaning narrow roads would be included, adding that the course had been approved by the UCI.
Race organiser Rob Discart told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad: “It should not be forgotten that when we announced the different courses at the time, we indicated that this is a ‘Flandrien route’. That means you are confronted with narrow roads.
“We think that our course, and therefore the finish in Aalter [on stage three], is safe. Mind you, I understand the criticism of some riders. After the race I asked Sam Bennett if everything was okay and he saw no problem. It will depend on the individual.”