“Speed has increased in cycling”, but there have always been accidents
JM González
April 16, 2024

Thirty-eight kilometers into the fourth stage of the Tour of the Basque Country and a bend suddenly changed the fate of the race. Suddenly, Itzulia 2024 was without its favorites. Remco Evenepoel, Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard plus other riders crashed heavily while turning with the peloton in a tight right-hand turn, which suddenly altered the route and erased aspirations of victory. As a result: several broken bones and the title contenders out of the competition and part of the season. “Speeds have increased in cycling, but crashes are part of it, unfortunately,” Alasdair McLennan, Secretary General of the European Cycling Union, explains to SportsIn.

That crash at the beginning of April still has consequences such as Vingegard’s broken collarbone or Evenepoel’s fractured scapula, reopened the debate on why these accidents happen. The question is even more important when you consider that of the six best cyclists today, four are injured due to crashes on the road. The aforementioned Itzulia victims, plus Wout Van Aert (who crashed in A Traverse of Flanders) are at home resting. Only Mathieu Van der Poel and Tadej Pogacar are still on the bike.


Is it because the races are getting faster and faster, or is it because of the age of the peloton, which is getting younger and more explosive, and are these kinds of situations avoidable? For Stefano Bertolotti, European Cycling Union Press Officer and race official, it is a complex issue to analyze. “Accidents have always happened in cycling. Unfortunately we have had fatalities on numerous occasions,” he begins by saying in dialogue with SportsIn. “I don’t think there is any correlation between a single cause or effect of the accidents that happened last week. It just happened to be in a reasonably safe area of the road. It was a freak accident, that’s life in our sport,” he adds.

Alasdair McLennan, Secretary General of the European Cycling Union, agrees and adds a new concept: “Cycling, like other sports, has been changing. Speeds have increased, but accidents are part of cycling, unfortunately,” he explains to SportsIn. “All sports are faster now. Look at the pit stops in Formula 1. Fifteen years ago it took 10 seconds to change tires, now it takes three seconds,” adds the Scottish cyclist.

Given the string of crashes in recent competitions, the debate has also been opened on the safety of the competitors. Jim Ratcliffe, owner of Ineos, wrote a letter to David Lappartient, President of the UCI, asking him to address this particular issue. “As we prepare for the start of the grand tour season, the issue of safety in professional cycling really needs to be addressed. In Formula 1, when Ayrton Senna had his fatal accident 30 years ago in Italy, the governing body set out to transform the safety rules of one of the most dangerous sports in the world and, as a result, injuries were significantly reduced,” the brief said.

“Cyclists are elite athletes”

“Cyclists will always go to the limit, as they are elite athletes, and that is why it is so important to act. In June, the UCI announced the creation of SafeR, a specialized entity to oversee all aspects of cycling safety. For the first time, the sport will have a dedicated safety body whose sole concern will be to make the sport safer, reducing the risks to riders and spectators without losing any of the excitement of racing (…) I applaud the UCI for taking these issues into account and agreeing to support the creation of SafeR. We now need to see real measures to ensure the safety of the sport,” concludes the letter from the Ineos owner.

The speed of competitions has also increased. The quest for better times pushes cyclists to the limit of their demands, so it becomes vital to work on measures to mitigate as much as possible the dangers on the road. Stefano Bertolotti argues: “Competitors have become stronger, younger and faster. Unfortunately that brings consequences. When you go faster and crash, it’s more serious than when you go at 50% speed. Accidents, risk and reward are related.”

And while there is no clear diagnosis as to why these accidents occur and the debate accepts more and more factors, all agree that the solution goes hand in hand with safety. Protecting cyclists will provide the spectacle of great duels and epic races that the public expects to enjoy.

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