New UCI pres­i­dent David Lap­par­tient must im­prove rider safety

Procycling - - Prologue - MICHAEL CARCAISE

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

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