‘We won’t stand for it much longer’: Riders voice anger again over race safety

The organisers of the Tour de Wallonie have apologised for the state of some roads on stage two 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rider safety has once again become a concern for the pros because of the poor state of roads used in the Tour de Wallonie. 

The organisers of the Belgian stage race were forced to apologise after day two, as riders voiced their anger over potholes and dangerous road surfaces included on the course.

More and more riders have been speaking out about safety in races since the season restarted earlier this month, as the peloton has been struck by a number of serious crashes in recent days. 

Deceuninck - Quick-Step riders Florian Sénéchal and Iljo Keisse both raised concerns about the potholes in the road during stage two in Wallonie, as Keisse shared a picture of the badly damaged road surface.

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Sénéchal said:“Red card today for the organisation.

“The circuit was much too dangerous for a sprint finish, road in a bad condition, too many traps on the side of the road. There’s always a reaction when there is a death or a serious injury, but making it safer for riders isn’t a priority?” 

Mitchelton-Scott’s Daryl Impey joined the calls for improved rider safety. 

The South African, who isn’t racing in Belgium, said: “Note to all race organisers: we won’t stand for it much longer.

“Downhill starts, dangerous circuits, crazy descents and your pathetic apologies afterwards. 

“We want to race, not dodge potholes, islands, and road furniture.” 

“As a cyclist watching today, I felt sorry for the riders racing.” 

After the stage, the organisers of the four-stage 2.Pro race apologised for the state of the roads that were used in the course, explaining that last minute changes had to be made due to the coronavirus crisis. 

Executive director of the race Christophe Brandt said that the route had to be redesigned on smaller roads because of restrictions in place because of the global pandemic. 

The Tour de Wallonie is the most recent race to be hit with concerns about rider safety, which were initially sparked by the awful crash involving Fabio Jakobsen at the Tour of Poland.

Deceuninck - Quick-Step rider Jakobsen was left in a serious condition when he was forced into the barrier on a high-speed, downhill sprint on stage one in Poland, as the barrier gave way and sent him flying into the air.

Then in the Critérium du Dauphiné, Tom Dumoulin said it was a “disgrace” that a particular descent was included in the race after his Jumbo-Visma team-mate Steven Kruijswijk crashed out on stage four. 

Israel Start-Up Nation rider André Greipel also shared his concerns about the descent and suggested riders should agree to neutralise the racing on dangerous sections of road as a protest against race organisers.  

Sunweb’s Nicolas Roche has also been vocal about rider safety at the Dauphine, both about the descent on stage four and about coronavirus measures on the race.

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Roche, who contacted the rider union the CPA about his fears, said: “ I brought up the issue of this descent at the start, which I don’t think was a disgrace but added an extra and unnecessary risk to what’s already a dangerous sport.

“I believe this is a bit of a test race for the Tour de France and it’s important to bring all of the problems up today so that they can be slightly corrected before the Tour.” 

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.