Last year it was Peter Stetina (BMC) nearly killed after hitting exposed, unprotected steel poles in the sprint finish of the Vuelta al País Vasco. He broke his leg, kneecap, assorted bones, ligaments, everything you need to race a bike.
There was the usual indignation about rider safety, lack of protection, dangerous racing conditions, the uselessness of the UCI, etc etc. Sound and fury signifying nada.
Well, it’s deja Vuelta all over again. This time is was stage five of the Vuelta a España, exposed, unprotected steel pole at end of sprint finish. This time the victim was Mr Hard Luck 2016 Steven Kruijswijk who broke his collarbone and ended his season frustrated, angry and in significant pain. He was also luckier than Stetina who endured a brutal twelve months of rehab to get back to racing on the WorldTour.
At least this time the race organizers were quick with the apologies. Stetina never heard a word of apology, remorse or admittance of responsibility for the people at Pais Vasco. We guess it makes Kruijswijk feel 1% better about his crash into the steel pole — now he has a We’re Sorry card to read at the hospital.
Is this not amazing? Astounding, shocking, unbelievable, ridiculous, inexcusable and bizarre? It just keeps happening over and over, riders injured by cars and motorbikes and poorly planned race courses, loosely interpreted Extreme Weather protocols and the general disregard by race organizers for the safety of the athletes.
Bike racers enjoy the laid-back “tranquillo” attitude of the races in Spain. Sadly, however, that tranquillo vibe seems to extend to putting up barriers and padding to protect athletes.
Last year it was Stetina, this year, Kruijswijk, Who’s next at the Vuelta a Steel Pole?