An Open Letter to the UCI1. September 2015, Santa Rosa, California (USA) — Road Team
BMC Racing Team President/General Manager Jim Ochowicz has previously spoken out about safety issues in the professional peloton. In light of more incidents jeopardizing rider safety in the sport's third grand tour, the Vuelta a España, he has penned this letter to the UCI and President Brian Cookson.
Someone please step forward! The sport is looking for leadership and courage with regards to the safety of the riders.
The answer to the safety issues in WorldTour races will not be resolved in meetings of the UCI Safety Committee, which has been evident by its lack of action since its last meeting. Safety problems at races continue to accelerate and are now a nearly everyday issue. The first 10 stages of the Vuelta a España since a controversial opening team time trial have featured several incidents jeopardizing rider safety – or even seriously injuring some riders. Many of these could have been prevented. Unfortunately, neither the UCI nor the race organizer is willing to take any responsibility.
Let's list some of the safety problems facing WorldTour races and possible solutions:
1. Course selection. Race organizers need to select and inspect courses that are challenging – but safe – and be held accountable for such.
2. The UCI should be required to sign off on and approve all course selections months in advance of the competition. Then, a second check should be performed in the weeks and even days leading up to the actual event, making sure road conditions are acceptable and any necessary changes can be made in a timely fashion.
3. The size of the peloton has become unwieldy and unsafe at some races, especially those which feature narrow roads crowded with traffic-calming "road furniture." The UCI should consider reducing the current number of teams in the races in order to provide a smaller peloton.
For example, in grand tours, start 20 teams of nine riders each – 17 from the WorldTour and only three from the pro continental ranks. In other WorldTour stage races and single-day events, allow only 22 teams of eight riders each to take the start. Again, the 17 WorldTour teams, plus five from the pro continental level.
4. Race personnel who drive along the race course or in the caravan have become a growing concern. Most recently, incidents involving race motorcycles have led to riders being completely taken out of contention. The UCI should require proof that individuals driving vehicles in races are duly licensed and qualified to do so.
5. Reduce the number of motorcycles and cars on the race course.
6. The criteria for selection of pro continental teams to WorldTour events should be clearly defined by UCI regulations. At the moment, no such selection criteria exists.
7. The UCI and/or race organizers should make it clear to all teams and riders who is charged with the responsibility for ensuring safe race conditions and who should be held liable when riders and or teams incur damages due to unsafe courses and or unsafe caravan movements.
In closing, suggestions and proposals to improve rider safety can be discussed and debated at length. But the harsh reality is that until the UCI takes action, this is a problem in professional cycling that will continue to loom large.
President/General Manager, BMC Racing Team