(Bilbao) The Tour de France will install protective mattresses in the descent of the Col de la Loze during the 17th stage, its boss, Christian Prudhomme, said on Friday, as cycling seeks to improve the safety of riders after death by Gino Mader.
This decision was taken well before the Swiss rider fell in a descent of the Tour de Suisse mountain pass in mid-June. But it takes on a particular meaning since this “drama that we especially do not want to relive”, underlined Mr. Prudhomme in Bilbao, on the eve of the start of the 110th edition.
The measure is also part of the initiative of the International Cycling Union (UCI), which on Friday presented a new commission called SAFER, intended to improve the safety of riders, while accidents are more and more numerous in cycling. .
“The safety of runners is a perpetual quest,” Mr. Prudhomme told a few journalists, including AFP.
On the 2023 Tour, the organizers will therefore install mattresses 30 meters wide, used for the World Ski Championships in Courchevel and Méribel in February, “so that if a rider falls there, he does not roll down” in the void.
The boss of the Tour also insisted on the work of the communities to restore the roads, citing as an example the department of Haute-Savoie which “rebuilt 130 kilometers of road, including two and a half kilometers of the descent of Joux-Plane “.
“Road repairs are obviously not just for the Tour, but the Tour is a work accelerator,” he added.
“On downhill finishes, the condition of the road is decisive for safety. Then it depends mainly on the risks that the riders are ready to take, “said the outgoing winner of the Tour de France on Thursday.
A new signposting system, tested in the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, will also be put in place to further signal the dangers, in addition to the sound and light markers already in force for a few years.
“We are more and more attentive, but we will never have a 100% solution. Cycling is a beautiful, but cruel sport,” Mr. Prudhomme recalled, however.
The race will pay tribute to Gino Mäder by removing bib number 61 this year. The Spaniard Mikel Landa, the leader of the Bahrain team to which the Swiss rider belonged, will therefore start with bib number 62 on Saturday.
“The death of a cyclist is an absolute tragedy,” said Mr. Prudhomme. Gino dreamed of participating in the Tour de France. So we had this idea that we proposed to his team who themselves proposed it to the family. They immediately said yes. »
At the same time, the UCI launched its new SAFER commission, which should eventually become a foundation and which will not be fully operational until 2025.
“We are seeing more and more accidents and our goal is to make our sport safer,” UCI President David Lappartient told a press conference.