Britain: Safety worries for Tom

Event director Tony Doyle hopes for a smoother second stage of the Tour of Britain after Tom Boonen

Event director Tony Doyle hopes for a smoother second stage of the Tour of Britain after Tom Boonen
Tom Boonen, team mate of race leader Stefano Zanini, has criticised the safety of the revived Tour of Britain after just one stage of racing. "There were a lot of problems. It wasn't very suitable to race today," Tom Boonen, stage one winner Zanini's Quick Step team-mate, said on Wednesday evening. "I think we were very lucky. They have to change something, for sure, because otherwise there are going to be some big crashes in the next few days. In other countries it's possible, so why not here? It's necessary to have a safe race, of course, but if it's like this in the next few days, I don't know what's going to happen." Many doubted that it would happen this year, but the organisers of the Tour of Britain managed to pull their event together in the space of just a few months. On Wednesday, Quick Step's Zanini won the first stage in a bunch sprint into Manchester. But given the logistical demands of such an event, should the organisers have in fact waited another year: another year of attempting to attract further sponsors, and so increase the budget, and another year of briefing marshals and police officers to better equip them to deal with the volumes of traffic around cities such as Manchester? For yesterday, what had been a chief complaint of pro riders in previous races in Britain returned, along with the race itself, five years after the last Tour of Britain. The simple fact was, that there weren't enough motorcycle police working on the race to effectively employ a rolling road closure, where traffic is stopped whilst the race passes by. But with cars still on the opposite side of the road, and many cars forced to simply pull over to the side of the road as police and marshals battled to stay ahead of the fast-moving peloton, the general feeling among the riders and their team staff was that such working conditions are too dangerous - and that something must be done to make the roads safer for the rest of the race. During the Tour de France, roads in France are closed to all non-race traffic for hours; in Britain, heavier volumes of traffic coupled with a relative lack of experience in staging major bicycle races mean that both the police and race organisers are up against it, not to mention the fact that the race has to operate on a budget many times smaller. Some team managers were struggling to do their job. "It took us an hour to get to him [in the car]," Alasdair McLennan, directeur sportif of the Scotland team who had Duncan Urquhart in the day-long breakaway, explained. "But you just have to understand that these things happen. Organising a race like this is a huge undertaking. Being the very first day, there were obviously some teething problems, and I think, logistically, this was always going to be the worst day, in terms of that kind of thing happening, and with the leaders having got such a huge gap." Under pressure to ensure the same thing doesn't happen again on Thursday, event director Tony Doyle was quick to acknowledge the problems. "Obviously, when a break gets a gap of 18 minutes, that puts any race under pressure, whether that's here, France, Belgium, wherever. All the commissaires, all the marshals, all the police are under a huge amount of strain," said Doyle at the finish, "and for some of the police, it will be the first major event they've worked on in cycling, so that added to the pressure. "We were aware of what happened out there, so rest assured that we're going to have meetings tonight [Wednesday] with the police and the officials, and do everything in our power to improve the situation," he said.
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