GC hopeful and 2016 Giro d'Italia revelation Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) was forced to abandon the 2016 Vuelta a Espana after suffering a broken collarbone from a crash in the closing kilometres of stage 5.
The Dutchman crashed into a pole sticking out of the road. The bollard was not signposted nor were there warnings.
Quite clearly responsible in the face of such evidence, Vuelta organisers swiftly released this statement:
In the response to the accident involving riders Steven Kruijswijk and Jan Bakelants (AG2R La Mondiale) during the fifth stage held today, the organisation of the 2016 Vuelta a
Espana wishes to express its deepest regret for what happened.
The accident resulted due to an obstacle in the race. An internal investigation has been opened to determine why there were no warnings or signposts as originally planned to alert
riders about the obstacle that finally provoked the accident and led to aforementioned riders falls and the dropping out of Steven Kruijswijk from the Vuelta.
The organisation has been in contact with the directors of both teams and with the general manager of Team LottoNL-Jumbo in order to convey its sincerest apologies expressed also
through this statement just as it has also been in contact with the riders' representatives in the Vuelta with the International Cycling Team Association and with the President of the commissioners college in the UCI.
So, now what?
“My ribs and collarbone hurt a lot,” Kruijswijk said. “I crashed heavily into that pole. It’s terrible that I have to leave this race because of an object that shouldn’t have been there.
"I’m going home immediately tomorrow. This was, after the Giro d’Italia, my second big target and I’m really fed up about the way I’m leaving this Vuelta.”
Will LottoNL-Jumbo or Kruijswijk receive compensation? Will their sponsors? Kruijswijk's form or lack of it is not in contention here. His team, team mates, fans and sponsors expected him to start and complete the Vuelta.
Now because of negligence, the Dutchman must endure rehab for a broken collarbone and spend more time recovering and off the bike.
But compensation aside, now what? Will this ever happen again? And where does the buck stop when it does?
With oversight for the sport internationally, race accreditation/regulation, and the World Tour itself, it would seem responsibility for race safety should fall to the UCI? The Cyclistes Professionnels Associes (CPA) thinks so.
The CPA released a statement and security plan on the 18th May this year which called for the UCI to shoulder responsibility for rider safety.
In its plan, available here, the CPA advocates an expansion of the UCI's mandate to develop and publish technical safety specifications for road races, monitor compliance and enforce penalties. The UCI currently accepts no responsibility for course design, caravan conduct or the safety of riders in general as this falls to race organisers.
But the UCI seems to get involved on its terms.
Ludicrously, the UCI fined Peter Sagan for his reaction after he was hit by a moto at last year's Vuelta. The footage appeared to prove it was the moto driver's fault. Yet Sagan's injuries forced Tinkoff's leader to abandon.
It is hard to respect any decision or resolution the UCI think up in regards to this issue after that stinker.
It is also hard to respect the UCI after there is seemingly no action or hint of movement after the UCI announces it will investigate incidents.
Take for example its announcement after Peter Stetina (BMC) was also attacked by a provocative bollard at last year's Pais Vasco in the final 500m of stage 1.
"The UCI has requested a comprehensive report be submitted as soon as possible for review and potential action. It is everyone's duty to make sure that our beautiful sport of cycling is not tarnished by incidents that appear to have been avoidable."
What was the outcome of this investigation?
While I'm not assigning blame to the organisers, the UCI or the moto rider for Antoine Demoitie's death at Gent-Wevelgem in March this year, nor am I in any position to do so, it is becoming increasingly apparent he died in vain.
Lotto Soudal's Stig Broeckx is still lying in a coma after two motos collided at the Baloise Belgium Tour in May and crashed into the peloton, felling 19 riders. After serious accidents involving motos in a matter of months, and it was also the second for Broeckx, Tony Martin (Ettix-Quickstep) exclaimed:
The UCI tweeted:
What was the result of this investigation?
The CPA called for action after Demoitie's tragic death. It has continued its call over the last few months. Still nothing seems to have happened. Nothing except more crashes. Again, I'm not saying anyone is directly at fault for causing his death. But nothing is happening.
The CPA appears to be at the end of its tether. As are riders.
These guys just want to go to work and feel safe. So do all the necessary and responsible caravan vehicle drivers.
It seems like no one is doing anything, perhaps because that fact is sticking out like a bollard on the road.