Since the restart of the 2020 cycling season, the main focus has been on safety. The riders have also spoken more than once about dangerous conditions. Steven Verstockt, safety expert of the University of Ghent, has developed a model that looks objectively at the safety of a course.
The terrible crash of Fabio Jakobsen in the Tour of Poland is still fresh in every cyclist’s memory. The Dutchman flew at full speed through the fences and crashed hard into the finish arch. His Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate Remco Evenepoel also ended up in hospital over a week later. In the Tour of Lombardy, the Belgian flew over a wall into a six-metre deep ravine.
QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere said in conversation with Herman van der Zandt that the sponsor of his team is willing to contribute to the safety of the race. “If one of your loyal sponsors says so, you have to react as a team leader. That’s what I did. Hopefully we can quickly follow up on that and improve safety significantly”
As a result of these incidents, safety expert Verstockt decided to develop a model. The Belgian took the Tour de France itinerary and analysed the stages. How safe or unsafe are they?
Verstockt: “The model pays attention for example to the presence of roundabouts, the type of road surface and whether there are descending lines in the last kilometers which can influence the speed of the riders” The latter was the case at the finish in the Tour of Poland, where things went wrong for Jakobsen. There the riders reached speeds of around eighty kilometers per hour.
Especially the last three kilometers of the Tour stages have been scrutinized. It showed that in this edition of the Tour de France stage 5 and stage 10 are the most dangerous. Verstockt: “According to the model, the route to the finish could be planned differently to make it safer for the riders”
Verstockt sees some risky things especially in the last kilometer of the fifth stage. “Less than a kilometer before the finish there’s another roundabout where the riders have to turn right. That’s where a sort of funnel forms. This is followed by a number of bends, speed bumps and another roundabout. I wonder why this finish has been chosen”
According to Verstockt, the tenth stage is a bit less dangerous, but even there problems can occur. “The model shows four dangerous points in the last kilometre. The peloton is guided through a village centre, where there are often changes in the type of road surface”
The Belgian safety expert indicates that with this model it is possible to warn in advance of dangerous courses, but that other interests also play a role. “The organisers and the finish places also have their interests in the choice of where the finish line will be,” Verstockt explains. “There must also be facilities to receive the teams
“The current model is not yet a final model. In the future, we want to have a model that everyone can agree with.” Verstockt is already in consultation with the international cycling union UCI and reports that a meeting is planned in the coming weeks to talk about his security model
The descent of the Col de Turini in the second stage of the Tour was considered dangerous. Reporter Tom Lagerberg went to see