Focus on event safety highlighted in response to police statement that formed basis of news reports

The organiser of last Sunday’s Exmoor Beauty sportive, in which a 61-year-old cyclist was airlifted to hospital after crashing and ending up underneath a car, has responded to what he says was a misleading statement issued by Avon & Somerset Constabulary in connection with the incident.

The police statement, which is no longer on the force's website but formed the basis of reports in press outlets including This Is Somerset, had given the impression that the emergency services had not been involved at all in the response to the incident, and that the injured cyclist had been flown to hospital by “private helicopter.”

Yesterday, road.cc contacted organiser Marcus Di Vincenzo of organisers MIG Events to clarify the situation, not least because some aspects of the newspaper reports did not seem to add up, not least that reference to the helicopter – which in fact, turned out to be the Devon Air Ambulance, summoned to the scene from Exeter.

Mr Di Vincenzo, a former Royal Marine who used his military experience to found a security business that works with organisations such as Formula 1 and has also provided training to tanker owners concerned about piracy in the Gulf of Aden, confirmed that a full risk assessment of the route had been conducted in accordance with British Cycling’s guidelines for sportive organisers.

As part of that, the downhill stretch of road where the cyclist lost control of his bike was identified as potentially posing a particular hazard, leading to the decision to place an ambulance nearby, among a number of steps taken to ensure the safety of participants, as a statement subsequently issued by the organisers confirms.

“Following an earlier detailed risk assessment, one of two medical technicians crews, engaged by the Exmoor Beauty Cycle Challenge, had been instructed to station themselves at the point where riders started their final run back to the coast,” said the statement.

“Deciding to follow the rider downhill, the crew were on the scene of the accident within seconds and, aided by a doctor who was also taking part in the ride, the injured cyclist’s injuries were diagnosed as life threatening.

“The crew immediately summoned up the emergency services and arrangements were quickly made for the Devon Air Ambulance to attend. Within 20 minutes, the injured rider was being transported to Frenchhay Hospital, where his condition is described as critical.

The statement continued: “The speed of the response, to this incident, owes much to the organiser’s stipulation that all key personnel, assisting with the logistics of the event, be equipped with satellite communications, which could supply the landing coordinates, should a helicopter be needed.

“With mobile phone signals not being available in many parts of the moor, the high-tech option was a vital part of the event’s risk assessment. In an effort to prevent any mishaps, the assessment had also found it essential to fix high visibility caution and slow signs along those sections of the route where extra care needed to be exercised.

“Signs were also posted cautioning other road users that the event was in progress. In changeable and sometimes arduous weather conditions, over 600 riders completed the 70 mile challenge without incident.

It concluded: “The thoughts of the event’s organisers, and everybody who took part, are with the injured rider and his family, with all hoping for a full and speedy recovery.”

When he spoke to road.cc yesterday, Mr Vincenzo highlighted that there was no suggestion that the motorist had done anything wrong, although with the priority being the treatment of the injured cyclist, no-one on the spot took his details, nor were the police immediately notified - their statement had said that they were first alerted when the rider arrived at the hospital in Bristol.

The driver has subsequently spoken to police as a witness, and according to This Is The West Country, the cyclist’s condition is no longer considered to be life-threatening.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.