It has been a wretched year for road race crashes, with Lotto-Soudal’s Bjorg Lambrecht dying after a crash in August’s Tour de Poland and, recently, Giovanni Iannelli succumbing to his injuries after an accident in the Trofeo Bassa Valle Scrivia. Last week, at the Piccolo Lombardia, Development Team Sunweb’s Edo Maas hit a car that had wandered onto the course on the descent on the Madonna del Ghisallo, sustaining injuries that have left him unlikely to ever walk again. There’s an increased call for protection for the people who race bicycles.
Brutal update here — safety needs to be No. 1 priority in cycling https://t.co/Tgx9LB7KcL
— Andrew Hood (@EuroHoody) October 17, 2019
In a press release about their 19-year-old rider, Sunweb declared, “Whilst this won’t undo this devastating tragedy, we once again call upon our governing body (UCI), to prioritize all of their time and resources on securing and ensuring the implementation of safe race conditions for teams and their riders.”
On October 15, the WorldTour BinckBank Tour agreed to new safety measures at its race after the rider’s union CPA complained of dangerous conditions and the UCI levied a fine for an unsuitable state of affairs at the race. The UCI also assigned a technical organizer to the 2020 edition, that the BinckBank Tour will have to pay for.
Professional cycling can be a dangerous sport in of itself: soft humans+speed+hard objects=risk. But factors like race cars, race motos, and course conditions increase the risk. Taylor Phinney’s retirement announcement this week at the age of 29 reminded the cycling world of his horrific injuries at the 2014 U.S.A. National Championships due to a race motorcycle in his way, physical and psychological trauma that affected the rest of his professional career.
The implementation of the Extreme Weather Protocol in 2016 was a wise, long-overdue measure, but has the increased use of gravel roads in races been a step backward? World champion of 1996 Johan Museeuw once said, “Crashing is part of cycling as crying is part of love” but death, paralysis and career-ending/career-compromising carnage should not be.