On Friday, ahead of Vuelta a Andalucía (often referred to as Ruta del Sol) stage 4, the cyclists competing in the race staged a protest. The riders felt their safety and welfare was being disregarded by the race organizers and, in a symbolic act, they came together on the start line to delay the roll-out by a few minutes.
“The riders got together through the CPA [Cyclistes Professionnels Associés] to protest certain course decisions and rider safety on Stage 3,” says Canadian cyclist James Piccoli, who was racing for his team Israel Start-Up Nation. On stage 4 of the five-day race, Piccoli was seventh in the GC (he finished the race eighth overall). Though he had his best result of the stage race on the third day, crossing the line a close third after Miguel Ángel López (Movistar) and Antwan Tolhoek (Jumbo-Visma), Piccoli was still upset with the way the course was designed.
“There were several dangerous descents with potholes and gravel on the roads that made racing dangerous,” he says. “In fact, one of my teammates, Alex Cataford, crashed right in front of me in a corner with gravel.”
The CPA, short for Cyclistes Professionnels Associés, is an international non-profit association of active professional riders that safeguards the interests of professional riders under Swiss law. All cyclists under a contract with a team (WorldTour, pro continental or continental) are automatically members of the CPA, either individually or by means of their national association.
“The safety of the athletes must be the priority in the organization of all races, both large and small and they will no longer tolerate serious shortcomings such as those which were encountered yesterday,” reads a statement from CPA regarding the rider’s safety requests at the Vuelta a Andalucía. “This difficult situation is to be added to the long and tiring transfers to which the athletes have been subjected during this race. They understand the organizer’s difficulties due to the post-pandemic period but they ask for more attention and respect to be given to this situation, as this is also a requirement by the regulations.”
Piccoli says that it would have been easy for the organizers to clean up the descents, or even just pick another road, to make the race safer for the riders. “Cycling is, of course, a sport with a certain level of risk,” he says, “but race organizers have historically not done enough to minimize this for the riders.”
The CPA’s statement concludes: “The safety of the athletes must be the priority in the organization of all races, both large and small and they will no longer tolerate serious shortcomings such as those which were encountered yesterday. This symbolic protest is intended to attract the attention of the organizers and the UCI to this important issue.”
The association has been advocating to draw awareness to the issues professional cyclists face. Piccoli thinks that the movement is important. “I’ll always be supportive of measures to improve rider safety,” he says. “I’m glad that we as professional cyclists have gotten to the point where we can start standing up for ourselves when it comes to this.”