On amazing rider safety.
It’s been a really amazing first year so far with Dimension Data. Saying that, injuries and illness put some significant spanners in my race program: This year I prepped for the Giro, and then maybe the Tour de France, and now the Vuelta. It’s been a big build up to my first grand tour this season so I’m really excited to get underway. I went into the Vuelta Burgos seeing a fantastic opportunity to try to build some confidence before the GT, and winning my first race in 2016 with the team, after a few close efforts: it’s been really nice. The really wonderful thing about Burgos is just that the roads are so perfect, which makes it so safe, the food is good, and it’s one hotel for the whole race, so its actually very stress free. On top of that the team gets to spend time together, in enjoyable circumstances to bond, and I think after Burgos I think our team has a really fantastic energy for the upcoming Vuelta, and a lot of the time that’s more important than just training well.
So we all spend a lot of time talking about, thinking about, and complaining about rider safety, especially in recent years. As much as we all like to point out negatives, its as important, or more to highlight examples of races and events where the organisers nail the rider safety aspect. Which was honestly one of the absolute best things about Burgos.
Perhaps the strangest thing about it all is that you don’t notice something is different, other than a feeling at the start of the race. We all finished the first road stage and we weren’t exactly sure what was different but we knew something was and we were talking at the dinner table, “Didn’t today feel good, wasn’t the organisation good?” There weren’t many motorbikes passing us and everything was signposted and then as we verbalised it, we realised “hang on, every single corner was signposted in terms of, There is a sharp corner in 200 metres. Just before the sharp corner there would be another person with a flag, warning you that this was the start of the corner. And then before speed bumps, and before railways: the same signage and warning marshals. And each flag person had their own individual flag for that situation. It changes the whole dynamic of the way the peloton will actually approach a corner or a section when you actually have the forewarning, and there was not a single stupid crash of any kind in the race, (that wasn’t a riders’ fault.) There was only one or two crashes in the race and that was when a guy from Roompot wasn’t looking up and rode into the back of a team car in the convoy (not the races fault) and a rider from One Pro’s chain snapped when he was out of the saddle. So for a five day race for there to be absolutely no major crashes, you actually start thinking, “that’s not normal” and absolutely 100% it was because of this difference in the peloton and the signs. It’s unexpected to go to a (smaller) race in Spain, not that the Tour of Burgos is small, there are 13 world tour teams, but not a WT race, nor is it in a country that is trying to put on a really good show, where a race is there for the first years, or its their only race. Say for Tour Down Under a lot of effort goes in to make people want to come. But a smaller race in France, or Spain or Italy tends to not be anything special at all.
I noticed even Allan Peiper, Sporting Manager at BMC pro team had highlighted this on twitter, Allan is an old friend (of course, all Australians are right?) so I popped him a quick email to get a more expert take on it:
“As racing becomes more and more intense due to pressure for results, while road conditions decrease with more and more road furniture and increasing traffic, the need for expanded safety measures to ensure rider safety is imperative.
Different races have different conditions so not every race organiser can be judged in the same way, however the will of the organiser and the measures taken to secure rider safety often go unnoticed.
At the recent Vuelta a Burgos in Spain the organiser took initiative to increase rider safety with some signage to prepare the riders of oncoming danger. Also a booklet with stage by stage dangerous points was printed and liberally distributed.
We are all too ready to criticise race organisers when something goes wrong but I think it’s also necessary to acknowledge their efforts when possible.”
— Allan Peiper (@AllanPeiper) August 4, 2016
Wise words from Allan. So why Tour of Burgos? I don’t know why it was a more important emphasis on race organisers to have safety there, but I guess what I want to say is, we are always complaining when things are bad, and in this case, it’s a real opportunity I feel, to really come out and congratulate and thank the race organisers for setting what I think is the new standard in safety, and I believe their model should be something that is considered into the future, and that other races can consult with them, especially many of the world tour events that are under-manned and under-signposted as far as safety. And it’s just fantastic that its started and it makes such a difference.
Words: Nathan Haas @nathanpeterhaas
Images: Iraia Calvo @iraiacalvo