Motos in the Mix and a Call for Better Production Values

Team Sky’s speedster Elia Viviani was caught behind a crash within the Arenberg sector, and perhaps he was thinking that there would be no way that he would play any further role in this year’s Paris-Roubaix.

And then the motorcycle plowed into him from behind.

Viviani walked away from the collision with contusions and cuts, but just two weeks ago at Gent-Wevelgem another pro cyclist was killed. Belgian Antoine Demoitie died of injuries sustained when a following motorcycle attempted to evade him where he had fallen in a crash but unfortunately tumbled directly unto his head and upper torso. Demoitie is the first fatality involving a race vehicle collision in many years, but in the context of a recent epidemic of such collisions, perhaps UCI officials and race organizers should look at his death, not as an isolated incident, but as the natural and inevitable result of current practices and protocols.

Viviani’s incident really is the last straw, as if someone’s death (apparently) wasn’t. Crashes are given with Paris-Roubaix, especially in the Arenberg Forest, and it is not as if anyone could have forgotten the loss of Demoitie in less than 14 days. Despite all that, a race moto could not avoid mowing down a stopped rider at the most predictably crash-prone portion of a race that is synonymous with crashing, while painfully aware of both severity and recentness of the previous incident. It is past being an issue of individual carelessness, because concerned operators and the predictability of situations has made no difference. Eliminating those variables, something must be wrong with how these races are being run.

Is it that there are too many race vehicles in the caravan? It is often said that the parcours of today’s races encounter more road furniture (speed bumps, posts, reflective dots, traffic turtles, etc) than in the past, making them more treacherous to racers. Are there likewise more motorcycles mixed in with the racers? Assuming that there are more motorcycles than in years past, are those motorcycles used by commissaries, neutral support, medical support, or television crews? I don’t have the data, but I think it is a safe bet that media interests are the likely sources of additional motos.

If that is true, then not only is it reprehensible to race organizers and officials to sacrifice rider safety for monetary benefit from the television coverage, but it also shows a lack of ambition and imagination on the part of media and the UCI. With today’s technology, you can’t tell me it’s impossible to put a transmitting action cam on the majority of the bikes in the peloton. With the plethora of power meters used on bikes, you could include all kinds of metrics on the video feed, which would no doubt appeal to a broader television demographic. And by broader, I mean American. Americans love quantifying their sports. Baseball is mind-numbingly boring, but all the statistics give it a satisfying tangibility. Imagine cycling coverage like Formula One…from the driver’s POV, and Monday morning’s dominant discussion at the watercooler will be about Kittel’s gear choice and cadence for the sprint , or whether Quintana was sustaining too much wattage too early in the Alps. Bike manufacturers would love it too, since the camera equipment could count towards the 6.8kg weight minimum that they’re always bitching about, allowing them to sell lighter yet more expensive framesets to the (well-heeled) everyman.

There are so many better options to televise cycling than motorcycles getting all up on the riders to film their feet going round in circles.