Fighting for the same goal.
What is the goal that we fought for in this last stage of Giro della Toscana? The answer is very easy: Safe bike races! Riders, team managers, race organisation, police and UCI have the same goal for sure. In the past, safety was not always guaranteed and I would like to use the chance to call attention to the safety problems.
To come one step closer to this goal, many riders decided to send a statement by not starting the race. For sure this was an effective way to attract attention. I have respect for all the riders who took this decision and I want to say thank you for fighting for the whole peloton.
I think we all know, that this is a clear statement, but not a solution to the entire problem.
For all of us riders, the easiest way to end this day in Toscana would have been, if, after the protest of many riders, the UCI would have decided not to start the race. But this didn't happen. With the decision of the UCI to start the race, many riders lost their good results and others, myself included, have to carry the pressure of not having joined the protest by not starting. I'm sure that all riders who did start did not mean to make an opposing statement, like not caring about safety. And furthermore nobody, including me, saw this as a chance to get a good result. For sure there are many different reasons, why many riders still started.
In my case, I started because it was the team's decision and I trusted the UCI, that they would look after our safety. After the meeting my team manager Manel Lacambra was convinced, that the safety of this stage would be better than the previous stages. The number of marshalls was higher and the commissaires were clear that they would stop the race if the safety could not be guaranteed. Looking at this side, the organization should have the chance to improve. Of course no one should support blackmail like: "If you don't start there will be no race next year". But we also cannot close our eyes to the fact there are fewer races every year. We are also sitting in the same boat as the race organizers. Many of them support women's cycling because of their passion, and not because of commercial interest. We as the riders need to value this.
I think that both components: We need safety! and: We need bike races! need to be heard.
To be honest, I don't know if I would have decided differently about starting the last stage, if I knew before that I will have to carry the pressure of being the official winner. Actually the fact I am standing in the spotlight now, should not affect the decision that I and we as TIBCO took before. I think that no one in the peloton wants to be in my place. Of course I don't feel like a winner. Marianne Vos is the clear winner. I was just 5th and I was happy with my shape. Now I have to take this pressure, that someone had to take in the moment that the UCI decided to start.
I will also try to see this pressure as a chance to remind all of us, that we can only reach the goal of safe bike races when we find the communication between riders, race organizations and the UCI, and when we work constructively together. We need to fight for our rights and safety, but in a positive and constructive, not in a destructive way.
I hope that my colleagues know me as a fair and modest cyclist and I hope that this doesn't change after this race.
I think the question now should not be who made the statement and didn't start and who still started. The question must be, how we can continue fighting for safe races.
I think Claudia is really brave to make this statement, and want to thank her for sharing her feelings about the race with us. She is absolutely right, the focus now needs to be on what we all - including us fans - can do to put pressure onto the UCI to ensure that riders aren't left in this situation again, that warning signs are heard and acted on, and the peloton can turn up to every UCI race knowing that they don't have to worry about their safety, and that if they raise issues, they will be heard.
UPDATE 17/9/13. Linda Jackson, the Team TIBCO Founder made a statement about Toscana on the TIBCO facebook
This is a really strong statement - and good to see it come from the team that has the most to gain if the Stage 4 results are recognised.
I have asked the UCI for a statement again, including on whether or not they will be allocating points for Stage 4. I'll update if I get an answer, or see a statement elsewhere.