Former sprinter Robbie McEwen has urged race organizers and the UCI to take greater responsibility for rider safety and ensure riders’ concerns are addressed.
The Australian reacted after Wednesday’s terrible crash on stage 1 of the Tour de Pologne which left Fabio Jakobsen in an induced coma, an unconscious awareness of the race and several riders who needed immediate medical treatment.
Jumbo Visma’s Dylan Groenewegen was held responsible for the incident, with the UCI blaming the crash on the Dutch’s shoulders. He was disqualified from the race and fined, while the victory was awarded to Jakobsen.
“The UCI, which considers the conduct to be unacceptable, immediately referred the matter to the Disciplinary Board to request that sanctions be consistent with the serious facts,”
While Groenewegen’s team later apologized for the crash where their riders deviated from his line and forced Jakobsen into obstacles, McEwen said Cycling News that the crash should be investigated by those responsible for sports.
“The most important thing is that everyone thinks of Fabio Jakobsen and hopes that he pulls through and recovers,” said McEwen.
“My point is that in sprint, it’s the kind of event we’ve seen many times. I’ve been on the side of both ends, with features like that. I have been in a situation where I have been disqualified, and I have been in situations where I have been caught up in obstacles and gone down. “
McEwen, who retired in 2012 after a career that spanned three decades and included three green jerseys and 12 Tour de France stages, also criticized Groenewegen for his sprint, but the 48-year-old also stated that he had contacted the UCI with ideas on how to improve rider safety in the sprint but had never even received a response.
“I’m in no way condensing the move from Groenewegen,” McEwen said.
“He came across too much, and that’s a fine line in pro-cycling. The idea is to keep the door closed enough without driving anyone into the barriers. He started too far out and he had too far to get over. It is a miscalculation but in no way would his intention have been to make another rider fall off, but the terrible crash is a direct result of that.
“What was most disturbing to me was that when Fabio Jakobsen hit the barriers, he did not turn back to the road. He went straight through them. It’s really bad planning, not just from the organizers themselves but the UCI, and they have to take responsibility for it. This is something that has been going on for several years. I lobbied for it when I competed and I have retired for eight years.
“I present a barrier design to both UCI and ASO at the same time for exact circumstances like this. While things have improved in some competitions, a good barrier installation must be solid, it can not come apart, and it must be heavy. The board on the front of the barrier must also come down at an angle and meet the road, everything must divert the rider back to the road.
“The barriers in Poland flew in any way, and it looked like they were made of plastic. One of them broke into pieces and that does not happen with the metallic ones. There is a lot to do when it comes to safety in the last hundred meter. ”
The Stage 1 sprint in Poland has been used for a decade and its sloping nature has been criticized in the past. McEwen called downhill “not ideal” and while acknowledging that organizing a race was not an easy task, the results of yesterday’s crash, or at least the degree of difficulty, could have been avoided if the forces at the top of the sport had listened more to riders’ voices and concerns.
There is a lot involved in organizing competitions with sponsors, places and cities that pay for goals, but tram tracks should not be anywhere near a bunch of riders, especially with group finishes, but things could have ended so much better. Bad, but still better than what we have now. We can only talk about a DQ, a nasty crash and a guy covered in bandages but to be able to start riding in a week or two. Instead, we are talking about a guy in a critical condition who is fighting for his life. That’s awful, “McEwen said.
“The [ed. the UCI] should finally start listening to the riders and the CPA. There must be a certain set of guidelines for each competition, regardless of the competition level or location. “
McEwen’s heart went out to everyone involved, including Groenewegen, who is now facing possible disciplinary action, but mostly Jakobsen who remains in intensive care.
“I’m also sure Dylan Groenewegen feels absolutely awful, and I’m sure he’s getting the support he needs. Even if the crash was his fault, he must be next to himself. It is nothing compared to the family or friends of Fabio Jakobsen. ”
Cycling News have approached the UCI to ask if they would review the future use of the Stage 1 finish and if they would look at improvements to the safety barrier.