/ 5 April 2024

Cycling ‘still killing people’ says angry union boss

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Wout van Aert of Belgium and Team Visma Lease a Bike competes in the chase group passing through the Oude Kwaremont cobblestones sector while fans cheer during the 67th E3 Saxo Bank Classic - Harelbeke 2024 a 207.6km one day race from Harelbeke to Harelbeke / #UCIWT / on March 22, 2024 in Harelbeke, Belgium. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The president of French professional cyclists’ union (UNCP) on Thursday called on the UCI, the world governing body, to take “responsibility” for making the sport a safer place. 

Pascal Chanteur said he was “angry” about the recent spate of high speed crashes which have seen three of the world’s top riders land in hospital in the last week. 

“Do we have to wait for the umpteenth death? For a rider to have both legs cut off and lose his life, so that people become aware? If that’s the idea, we’re not far off,” Chanteur told AFP.

After Wout van Aert broke his collarbone and several ribs in a high-speed mass fall during last week’s Around Flanders one-day race, there was further carnage on the Tour of the Basque Country on Thursday. 

Two-time Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard was taken to hospital after suffering broken bones and lung damage during a crash which also took out Remco Evenepoel, who also suffered a broken collarbone.

“I’m not saying that the UCI is responsible but they do have a responsibility to take the full measure of our recommendations to make progress on safety,” said Chanteur. 

“For example, we’re perfectly capable of reducing speeds by changing tyres. Why can Formula 1 do it and we can’t? 

“We’re the only sport that doesn’t know how to adapt, and we’re still killing people.” 

Chanteur said the increased number of crashes was in part due to an increasing amount of “street furniture” but was caused principally by the “increasingly avant-garde” materials used in making the bikes. 

“Carbon is light and very rigid, so there’s no room for error,” he said. “Wheels and tyres are nothing like those used in the past. Drama can happen at any moment. 

“Disc brakes in racing are too dangerous. The same applies to the gear ratios used. Today, we use 56×10. They’re going 80 km/h downhill, even though they’re almost naked. When there’s a fall, you have no way of escaping.”

‘Attitude’ to blame

UCI president David Lappartient told AFP that the question of disc brakes was one that deserved discussion. 

“It’s a subject we want to put back on the table,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a taboo subject.

“Equipment is obviously an issue. Bikes have made an extraordinary leap forward.”

Lappartient, however, also intimated the riders were themselves partly to blame for the crashes. 

“Fifty percent of the falls are due to their attitude,” he said.

“I’m not here to say it’s their fault. It could be a moment of inattention. 

“But that’s also why we want to introduce a principle of yellow and red cards this year, like in soccer, so that dangerous attitudes are better punished.”

Chanteur, meanwhile, said the peloton has been “angry” at the current situation since Fabio Jakobsen’s life-threatening accident at the 2020 Tour of Poland but the cyclists were powerless to speak out.

“It’s not easy for a rider to say what I say,” said the 56-year-old former journeyman professional cyclist. 

“They’re salaried employees and the main financial backers of cycling are still the cycle brands. 

“I’m pointing the finger at these people (the cycle manufacturers). 

“It’s up to them to decide whether they want to continue having accidents on their conscience, or even deaths.”

© Agence France-Presse