New UCI president David Lappartient must improve rider safety
Rider safety must remain a priority at the new UCI
W hen Brian Cookson took the reins of the UCI in September 2013, there were no codified measures to protect riders in dangerous weather. There are now, thanks to the Extreme Weather Protocol, which was piloted in 2015 and made a UCI regulation from 2016. When Cookson took over, the race convoy functioned by convention: a rider’s safety when in the trailing cars was based on drivers’ assumed proficiency. Now there are firm guidelines in place that all drivers must abide by to protect the riders. From January 2018, but conceived under Cookson, WorldTour races will be safer places because of the following new regulations: the closing kilometres of each race will be subject to a comprehensive risk assessment; organisers will produce a video of the closing kilometres and circulate it among teams; races will have a safety and environment manager who will travel ahead of the peloton to recognise potential hazards. Finally, footless barriers will be used at the end of races. These changes have been brought about by the increasing participation of riders in the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA), and its regional chapters like the ANAPRC (North America), which have nudged the UCI into action.
This is progress. Under the Cookson regime it could be painfully slow and key recommendations along the way were sometimes frustrated without explanation. But there was momentum. Riders who I’m in touch with recognised and are grateful for the improvements, however incremental.
The UCI elected David Lappartient its president in September. A change of administration is a delicate moment for the survival of the priorities championed by the predecessor. Our momentum is subject to changing personnel and subtle shifts in priorities.
But in Lappartient’s manifesto I was heartened to read that rider safety was a clear, specified pledge. He promised riders’ concerns would be heard and change enacted. I think Lappartient can get an early burst of enthusiasm from the peloton if he quickly moves to take safety forward. After all, the athletes are the sport’s greatest asset, its most precious resource. Their voices are increasingly heard either in unison or alone on social media platforms. There are some quick wins for Lappartient – successes that don’t require time-consuming inquiry, but simply improving recently passed rules.
For instance the Extreme Weather Protocol needs amendments to minimise subjective interpretation. It needs clearly defined parameters that, if present before a race, would trigger an automatic cancellation or an alteration of the route. For example, if the air temperature falls below a certain level and is accompanied by rain, plan B should be enacted. If the wind exceeds a certain speed, measures need to be taken. We can’t account for every scenario with automatic triggers - some calls will have to be made on the road - but there are many situations where the guesswork could and should be removed. It would improve the relationship between stakeholders if anger at a decision not going a certain party’s way was directed at the rule-book rather than the opposing side.
We also need the UCI to enforce the race convoy guidelines with transparent and punitive measures for drivers that contravene them. Currently, when drivers break the rules, the proceedings and punishment are kept secret. Finally, it still shocks me that the UCI does not record and report statistics on rider-vehicle incidents and near misses. If you don’t record what’s happening how can you know if you’re making improvements? It’s self-defeating not to keep a record.
There are quick wins to be had and a chance for the new president to put rider safety front and centre.
Michael Carcaise was elected the Executive Director of the ANAPRC – the North American riders’ association in 2015