Please don’t fence me in

cage-fight Sigh. Another spectator has caused another crash on another stage of another bike race. With Alberto Contador’s Giro d’Italia tilt now seemingly hanging by his strained shoulder ligaments and poor Daniele Colli’s arm pointing in the wrong direction, all because some ill-advised clown decided to lean too far over the barriers to get a photo of the sprint, calls are pouring in for more to be done by race officials, such as implement a double barrier system or even somehow ban fans from using zoom lenses. I’m all for reducing obvious risks to protect riders. But seriously? Where do you drawn the line here? It’s not as if there weren’t barriers last night. Proximity to the peloton – even in the sprint – is one of the greatest assets cycling has to offer, it’s a hugely appealing point of differentiation from other sports, and you can’t fence (let alone double fence) off an entire course even at a Grand Tour, let alone smaller UCI races. As Giro Race Director Mauro Vegni told reporters himself: “I don’t feel that we have to put the Giro in a cage away from the public … we can’t punish 20,000 people because of the actions of one person … but unfortunately, nowadays situations with cameras and mobile phones have become so dangerous and the people don’t seem to realise the risks these boys are running.” It doesn’t matter how far you go, or how much money you spend. There will still be corners or roads or traffic islands or climbs where fans get very, and potentially dangerously, close to the bunch as it speeds past. At some point we have no choice but to show some faith that the vast majority of people will do the right thing – and of course also accept there will be occasions when regrettably some people don’t, be it because of alcohol, ignorance, a distraction or just plain stupidity. This happens in every facet of life. Cycling is not Robinson Crusoe here. Thing is, we can never underestimate the ability of people to do stupid stuff in life, including when standing along the course of a bike race. It’s why the Darwin Awards exist. As Michael Turtur explained to me last year when discussing the logistical challenges of organising a ‘safe’ Tour Down Under, even the best-laid plans of Race Directors can only do so much to protect riders from morons (and in the case of the TDU, even rogue kangaroos). Given the very nature of road racing means it’s conducted on open roads, you can never mitigate every eventuality. Idiots will still find new ways to do truly idiotic things – it’s only a matter of time before a drone crashes into the peloton, if it hasn’t already. By all means run campaigns imploring fans to do the right thing and make them more aware of the risks, and certainly hold the perpetrators personally accountable for endangering the lives of riders by slapping them with large fines and/or even jail time if it’s warranted. But, really, sometimes people stuff up. Shit just happens. yes, it sucks. But it’s also life. Just finally, let’s not forget that for every disturbing incident like last night’s at the Giro or Loren Rowney’s horror crash at this year’s Molecaten Drentse 8 in the Netherlands, there are hundreds of bike races and stages held every year where nothing untoward happens. Let’s keep some perspective here.

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