071 ANTOINE DEMOITIE (25) DIES AFTER A COLLISION

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Antoine Demoitie

Belgian cyclist Antoine Demoitié died in the night from Sunday to Monday from his injuries after he was hit by a motorcycle in Gent-Wevelgem.  His team Wanty-Groupe-Gobert confirmed this tragic news via a short message.

The 25-year old rider of the Belgian team crashed after 150 kilometers of race with four other riders. He rode at that time in the third peloton so far behind the head of the race. A motorcyclist, who was behind him, could not avoid the fallen rider after the crash, and also fell. In addition, Demoitie ended up under the engine where he suffered severe injuries to the head. He was taken to the hospital in Lille unconscious where he died.

The behavior of motorcyclists in cycling races has been, for a long time, subject of discussion. Earlier this year, Stig Broeckx and Danilo Wyss were hit during a race. Last year cycling team Tinkoff threatened to leave the Tour of Spain after Peter Sagan and Sérgio Paulinho were hit in the races by motorcycles.

The many motorcycles in the race are indeed a problem and often lead to dangerous situations that may result in crashes. But the engines are not the only factor. A cycle race is an extremely dangerous undertaking wherein also the cars of the team leaders, the so-called following cars, carry out the most daredevil feats to change the bike of a rider with bad luck.

The peloton often develops an extremely high speed on narrow roads where at most two riders can ride next to each other and that makes the situation even more dangerous.

In such courses the cyclists are much faster and more agile than the engines and the cars which must still follow the high pace to keep everything together. Moreover, the driver of the team manager’s car has to carry out a lot of extra tasks that would give him a series of fines in regular traffic. There are two walkie-talkies: one to talk to the riders, the other to make contact with the second car with the co-team leader.

Furthermore on the dashboard: a TV screen to follow the race live, a speaker for the race radio and his own hand phone. And often an iPad to follow the route of the race via Google Maps. In addition the course book to be consulted several times.

The biggest problem is the drivers of cars and motorcycles that have no sense for situations during the race or simply lack the ability to avoid hazardous situations. In other words, people who cannot read the race. But most drivers are fortunately enough ex-cyclists and for them the race has no secrets.  A cyclist in the race hears or feels exactly when a car is behind him. As a car driver you must especially avoid moving with the pack. Just keep going straight. The riders react to you.

Another unwritten rule is that you have to support a rider who is well behind of any team whatsoever, always help him rejoin the peloton.

The main written rule: always follow the orders of the jury. The following car is permitted to go to the leading group if the gap, between the pack and the riders in the breakaway group,  is big enough for the jury.

And especially do not do crazy things. If you cannot pass the pack, do not even try. The safety of the riders always comes first.

ONE YEAR FULL OF CRASHES 2015

Jesse Sergent. 2015 Tour of Flanders.
Hit by the neutral car from Shimano by going into a left turn. Injuries: broken clavicle.

Sébastien Chavanel. 2015 Tour of Flanders.
Sébastien Chavanel riding at walking pace along the side of the road because of a flat tire. He waits for his team car for a new wheel. That car stops, but the driver of the Shimano car behind him reacts too late, driving full speed into the back of the car that is helping Chavanel. Chavanel is being catapulted. Miraculously, he barely gets hurt.

Greg van Avermaet. Clasica San Sebastian 2015.
The Belgian riding solo in the lead when he is knocked down, in the heat of the final, by a motorcycle. The victory goes to the Briton Adam Yates who thinks he is second.

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Greg van Avermaet, Clasica San Sebastian.

The Dane Jakob Fuglsang rides in the leading group during the 18th stage in the ascent of the Glandon. He goes for the mountain jersey. Until he was hit from behind by a motorcycle. Fuglsang crashes and misses 5 points for winning the mountain jersey.

After the deadly crash of Demoitié the debate flared up on the many motorcycles in bike races. Alberto Contador made an urgent appeal to the UCI to check motorcyclists more and better. Marcel Kittel came with a recommendation to give motorcycles a better training.

What is the situation now?

In Flanders each motorcycle rider can buy a follower license for 180 Euros per year.  In the Netherlands, such a license requires one course of 3 to 4 hours. The Dutch license is valid for three years and costs 45 Euros.

In a 62 pages PowerPoint Presentation ‘APPLICATION FOLLOWER’ the basic rules of a cycle race are explained, some hints in them:

  • Never go for the leading group on narrow roads.
  • Always ride behind the cyclists and never alongside them.
  • In a crash always go directly to the right side of the road.

At the end of the class a motor rider is qualified to ride in national races such as the Dutch National Championship or a race like Veenendaal – Veenendaal.

FOR A LICENSE A TEST IS NOT REQUIRED.

According to the Dutch Cycling Federation the interest is enormous. Each year more than one hundred new followers try to get a license.

A motorcyclist, who wants to participate in the largest cycling races in the world, in World Tour races, requires a supplementary UCI certificate since 2013.  That only takes an extra Friday evening and issued without doing a test of skills.

A motorcyclist with 40 years’ experience on a motor in cycling races in Holland  and abroad says: “the race is chaos in itself, and that has only got worse in recent years. It has nothing of just motorcycling. “

“When cyclists descend 90 km per hour on a narrow mountain road, I have to keep distance and certainly do not let me be overtaken.  Then I have to go down with more than 100km . That’s not easy. “

Motorcyclist in a cyclist race is a real profession that you can only learn in the race itself. You cannot learn such a difficult profession in a one night class.    “The selection is much too non-committal. That’s why I started a special training. Boys who sign up starting in small races. I immediately see whether someone is talented or not. But most of them do not succeed because of a lack of talent”.

Likewise, the organization of the Tour of Flanders selects their motorcyclists. Race director Wim van Herreweghe: ” You have to earn riding in the Tour. And for that we  have a good control system.  And even then it can go wrong”.

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But cycling is still a very dangerous sport. You move at high speed from A to B, an accident can happen in a split second.  The requirements for a license for motorcyclist as you can read here above   are ridiculously inadequate. They absolutely need to be adjusted. The UCI is of course long overdue to provide a theoretical and practical curriculum that will apply to each national association. On the other hand pester the riders to the absurd with doping controls, partly under  the guise of ensuring the health of the riders, is disproportionate to the health risks to which riders are exposed by incompetent motorcyclists and support vehicle drivers. That is the responsibility of the UCI where amateurism and incompetence compete for the first place. Millions of people watch the professional cycling races over the whole world organized by the UCI that do not exceed the level of well-meant amateurism.  Read also the piece CANMORE Canada at the end of this article.

Are there other risks to which riders are exposed? I would think so. The huge crowds that come to the race and allow the riders barely a passage during climbs. The idiots who infest the riders during the race, after being incited by commentators making false allegations about alleged doping. Cups with piss are thrown over them and standing in the middle of the highway, they refuse to go out of the way for the approaching enemy, their two middle fingers up. In my opinion they could shoot that drunken pedestrian scum on the spot.

Maarten Tjallingii Lotto Jumbo rider considers that the time is there to not only identify problems but to solve them too. He proposes to make a rule that the engines cannot stay longer  among the riders, but only in the front or at the back of the pack. Setting a maximum speed for engines when  overtaking riders, provides more time to react to unexpected movements and will clearly reduce the number of hazardous situations, according to Tjallingii.

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Peter Sagan focuses his attention on the cyclists and denounces the attitude of many of his colleagues in the peloton. He sees this as one of the causes of increasing insecurity in  professional cycling.

“The problem is that there are 200 riders in 20 teams, and they all want to be in the front row,” Sagan said. The team leaders demand through the communication that you are in front of the peloton, before a dangerous or potentially decisive part of the race, to avoid a crash or not to miss the decisive attack. So everyone sprints to the front on the broad macadam road to the next narrow road, which usually leads to yet another difficult cobbled climb. If one helper does so with his leader, there is no problem. But all nine riders of each team want to ride up in the front in the Tour of Flanders. And that is not possible because there is not enough space for everyone”.

HEADS TOGETHER

“The top riders must speak together. Only if we share the same view there may be some change.  How is it going now? A young newcomer thinks, I’m strong, I’m fine, and so I can do whatever I want. Without respect for others. I get some of it. It’s their life, but they also play with mine. I do not understand that there are riders in the bunch which cannot control the bike  and still want to ride up front. “

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The sprint of the peloton to the next small climb.
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The climb.
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Only two or three in the front.

COOKSON, PRESIDENT UCI

Cookson will not take hasty decisions. “Let’s wait until we know all the facts before we identify a guilty party. The point I would make is hopefully clear. If you want to think about solutions you first should be good to describe the problems. Complex problems have complex solutions,“ Cookson says.

DECISION

It is of course not the idea to point out the guilty, as  Cookson supposes. Cycling is and remains an extremely dangerous sport where accidents will continue to occur. But try -as a responsible organization- to influence the conditions so that the risk of accidents is limited to a minimum. So add more to the licence requirements for motorcyclists who follow the training.  Finally the UCI has to come with uniform training requirements.  Limit the number of motorcyclists where possible. Enter a number of clear rules that will benefit the safety of the riders. Motorcyclists and car drivers ought to lose their licence by irresponsible behavior.

Let UCI president Cookson just think for a while to be able to describe properly the complex problem. Another popular trend is to set up an independent inquiry of three men who produce a comprehensive report and submit a bill of € 2 million Euros. Then  the report goes in the bottom drawer and nothing changes.  Common sense and decisive leadership that it is all about Brian Cookson.

Crash Hoogerland Tour de France, 2011


CANMORE CANADA

WORLD CUP MOUNTAIN BIKE CONTEST FOR WOMEN

July 03, 1999

Petra Brentjes

The race is held at about 1,200 meters altitude. The top of the course is at 1,500 meters. At 1500 meters there is snow. Before the race it was bitterly cold. But during the race it starts to rain and the temperature drops rapidly. At the end of the race it even starts to snow on the highest point of the course. The winner Gunn-Rita Dahle passes the finish line without any emotion. She is quickly brought to a tent where hastily heat guns are positioned.  Number two can still walk by herself, but number three and four are falling across the finish line, screaming and shrieking from the cold and the pain. Then, the real battlefield begins. Elsbeth Vink is unconscious after the finish and transported by stretcher.

On the first aid post more than ten participants are being brought in who are severely hypothermic.  A rider is found, more or less accidental, unconscious along the route and taken by ambulance to the hospital. Incomprehensible that the jury did not intervene during the race to shorten the race. Everyone along the route saw that it had to be done with these cold accidents. But repeated requests to this effect were turned down by the jury.

Also during the discussion after the race the jury showed no sympathy or regret about what had happened. The request to take measures in time as there will be the contest for the men, held the next day, is not seriously considered.

But it was the next morning at 6 am again knocking on the doors of the rooms in the morning to carry out the so-called health checks.

Races held under the conditions described above are a real danger to health. A hematocit  value which is just above the 50 by no means. “Long live the UCI, long live their hypocrisy.”

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Petra Brentjes-Liebregts.
Soigneur Specialized/Mountain Dew team