For the first time at the UCI Road World Championships, the Union Cycliste Internationale organised a safe-driving awareness course for National Federations’ Sport Directors. This new initiative is part of the UCI’s programme to increase riders’ safety during races.
Brüssel meeting room at Innsbruck Messe, the Tirol capital’s Congress Centre, 6.30pm, Wednesday 26th September 2018. Rohan Dennis has just become UCI World Champion in the Elite Men’s individual time trial. Competing for Cycling Australia, the newly-crowned UCI World Champion rides for the rest of the year in the colours of UCI WorldTeam BMC Racing.
In the room that hosts the press conferences of the rainbow jersey winners, UCI International Commissaire Philippe Mariën stands in front of a diverse assortment of Sport Directors (Directeur Sportifs - DS). Whether for Belgian Cycling (RLVB) or for the UCI, the Belgian is used to training the peloton, both riders and their entourage: safety and anti-doping are part of his everyday life when he isn’t serving on the Commissaires’ Panel.
Here, the audience is a little different: “At the Worlds we have Sport Directors participating for the first time in an international competition, who are more used to driving in race convoys at continental or national level. Our mission here is to get them up to the required level to assure the safety of riders and everyone present in the ‘bubble’.”
Seventy-seven nations are represented in Innsbruck. The breakdown by continent demonstrates the diversity of horizons, where there is an uneven experience at high level: Europe (39 nations), America (16), Asia (14), Africa (6) and Oceania (2).
At the UCI Road World Championships in Bergen (NOR) last year, the UCI imposed sanctions when the behaviour of drivers endangered rider safety.
The Junior and Under-23 categories are those most likely to suffer from National Federations’ lack of resources, which can potentially have consequences on safety during the race. To reduce this risk, the UCI imposes a limit of 25 team vehicles in any race convoy.
Belgian rider Stig Broeckx’s serious accident in 2016 involving two motorbike marshals and Antoine Demoitié’s death after a crash also involving a motorbike, served as reminders that safety must be a constant priority for everyone, regardless of the experience of the riders.
“Here in Innsbruck experienced Sport Directors rub shoulders with colleagues who are less used to high-level races,” explains Vincent Jourdain UCI Race Operations Road Manager whose tasks include supervising the organisation of the race convoy. “Our message is aimed at the two groups because UCI WorldTour motorbike riders and drivers also need to be made aware. They can get into bad habits or become over-confident.”
Canada’s former national coach recalls learning to drive in a race without any real safety advice: “I learnt late in the day. It’s good that we do can do things differently today.”
Nearly 1500 participants for driving courses in 2017 and 2018
The training offered by the UCI at the 2018 Worlds is part of a growing investment by the International Federation in this domain over the last years.
A document entitled Guidelines for Vehicle Circulation in the Race Convoy provides a regulatory framework for all vehicles in the race convoy. Experienced and renowned technical advisers, often former riders, are present before and during the races.
In 2017, more than 800 people participated in courses proposed by the UCI, with emphasis on new events on the UCI WorldTour calendar. In 2018, event organisers were responsible for the initiative. The demand remained high: 655 registrations for 12 courses from the Tour de France to the Grand Depart of the Giro d’Italia in Israel and the European Championships in Glasgow.
“We see more and more organisers and National Federations using these courses to train drivers for races at a lower level or for national competitions,” says Vincent Jourdain. “The medium-term goal is to extend this education to Federations for class 1, class 2 and national events.”
The UCI works with representatives of riders (CPA), teams (AIGCP) and organisers (AIOCC) to ensure the largest participation possible of road cycling’s key players.
“The success of our work to raise awareness requires the implication of everyone in the convoy: cars, motorbikes, marshals, medical assistance, riders… We can produce guidelines, have meetings, organise training, but the safety of the riders is also the responsibility of riders. They are part of the solution,” concludes Jourdain.
No dangerous behaviour was detected in Innsbruck.