Belgium’s employment minister says he wants to work with organisers of professional cycling races to ensure the safety of riders after yesterday’s crash which has left Lotto-Soudal rider Stig Broeckx in a coma.
The 26-year-old was one of 19 riders who came down when two motorbikes crashed during a descent during yesterday’s penultimate stage of the Tour of Belgium, with the day’s racing subsequently abandoned.
He was taken to hospital in Aachen in Germany after sustaining two bleeds on the brain and a fractured eye socket.
In an update on his condition this evening, Lotto-Soudal team doctor Servaas Bingé said: “Constant monitoring and tests showed that the intracranial pressure has slightly increased, but within acceptable limits.
“During the next 48 to 72 hours the increase or decrease of the intracranial pressure will be decisive for further treatment. If the intracranial pressure increases, surgery might be necessary. A decrease of the pressure would be a positive sign. The bleedings in the brain have stabilised.
“The condition of Stig needs to be monitored every hour and the neurosurgical team of the hospital is consulted for the treatment. The secondary injuries – fracture of the eye socket and bruised lung – don’t have a determining influence at the moment,” he added.
With yesterday’s crash coming just two months after the Wanty-Gobert rider Antoine Demoitie died from injuries sustained when he was run over by a motorbike at Gent-Wevelgem, employment minister Kris Peeters wants to examine how rider safety can be improved, says Het Laaste Nieuws.
He said that employment welfare inspectors from his ministry would work alongside the national cycling federation and professional teams and race organisers to see how safety could be improved.
"Together we can make a thorough risk analysis and establish a roadmap for safer competition and better protection of cyclists," he explained.
“Yesterday’s serious incident that we need to examine bike races with a view to increasing levels of safety,” he added.
“As minister of employment, I want to protect professional cyclists during races, where after all they are doing their job.”
The start of today’s final stage of the race, from which Lotto-Soudal withdrew yesterday due to Broeckx’s condition, was delayed as riders staged a protest over safety.
The professional riders’ association, the CPA, said in a press release that the crash “illustrated the importance of higher standards on the safety issue to better prevent unnecessary accidents in a sport that already has, [as a result of] its nature, a certain level of risk.”
The CPA, which was supported in the action by teams’ organisation the AIGCP, said the protest was to show support for the riders who were injured, and above all “Broeckx, his family and his team, as well as [to] express the urgency for better safety measures.”
They said they appreciated “the will of the other stakeholders in the sport of cycling to improve safety but at the same time both associations call for a faster implementation of new measures and for even higher standards.
“Safety should be an absolute priority for all stakeholders who all together form the sport of cycling,” they added, calling for measures including “more intensive and appropriate controls by the UCI, as well as a higher level of professional training for the race commissaires.”
The two organisations also said they will be arranging a meeting to which all stakeholders will be invited “to discuss this important issue” and look at ways to improve safety.
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.