Three pro riders with very different experiences of head injury discuss the tricky subject of concussion in the peloton. Sports like NFL and Rugby have clear procedures for dealing with athlete head injuries, but Brent Bookwalter, Matt Brammeier and Tom Skujins think cycling could do better, and their colleagues in the peloton need to be more aware. Rouleur's Desire Editor Stuart Clapp talks up Gore's new Shakedry jacket, and David Millar's long awaited film. Presenter: Ian Parkinson.
The race also marks the return of Brent Bookwalter and Kilian Frankiny, both of whom were injured late last season. Bookwalter suffered a head injury in a crash at the Tour of Britain and had to renounce his place in the USA team for Worlds. It was his first experience with a concussion, he said, and his recovery took a bit longer than expected.
You can read the full story and watch the crash video here: http://www.express.co.uk/sport/othersport/851702/Tour-of-Britain-crash-cycling-Brent-Bookwalter-collision-video-Retford-disabled-bay
Bookwalter needed stitches and suffered a concussion during stage four of the Tour of Britain yesterday after the peloton crashed into a parked car.
The BMC Racing rider was caught up in a pile-up in the Nottinghamshire town of Retford after the riders swung round into the car which was parked in a disabled bay.
And Bookwalter was forced to pull out of the race, but claimed on Instagram that the whole crash could have been avoided.
“I’m very disappointed to abandon the race, especially from an incident that likely could have been avoided with more pro active safety measures,” Bookwalter said.
“Thank you also to the incredible race medical crew (best I've experienced in a race) and [BMC Racing] for taking such good care of me.
“They made a scary and confusing experience easier to handle from the race doctor all the way to the paramedics who took me to the hospital.”
The Tour of Britain meanwhile say they are conducting an investigation into how the crash unfolded.
“We operate a rolling road closure and cannot remove every parked vehicle on the race route, however we work with residents, communities and local authorities ahead of the event to ensure as safe and clear a passage for the race as possible,” a statement said.
“In this instance the car that was parked in a disabled parking bay wasn’t able to be moved before the arrival of the race, and as per our procedures was flagged by one of our motorcycle marshals to alert riders to an obstacle in the road."
Brent sits down with Velo News to discuss the need for all cyclists to have a voice regarding safe racing weather conditions.
Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) was there when mud-caked glasses and silt-filled eyes dropped visibility to zero on Kebler Pass at the USA Pro Challenge last August. He was at the Giro d’Italia, too, where the rain seemed endless until it turned to snow, and controversy, atop the Stelvio.
It’s easy, sitting as we do behind computer screens and television sets, to forget just how unsympathetic and how utterly heartless cycling can be to the men and women who put on the show. It’s a sport that revels in stoicism, puts the hardman on a pedestal, and has always fought through wind, rain, sleet, and snow. We applaud a grimace, cheer for pain, and beg for suffering. It’s what makes the sport unique — and beautiful.
But the old-world, walk-it-off mentality does not always fit with modern, professional sport. Failure to protect riders properly puts the sanctity of the show in jeopardy, as it was on the Stelvio and Kebler pass last year.
That’s where the international rider’s union, the CPA, and its newest arm, the Association of North American Professional Road Cyclists (ANAPRC), fits in. Bookwalter is on the board of the brand new organization, the first to represent North American riders’ interests to the CPA and, thus, to the rest of the sport’s stakeholders.
VeloNews sat down with him during the Dubai Tour to discuss problem areas in pro cycling and how the ANAPRC plans to address them.
VeloNews: What motivated the ANAPRC?
Brent Bookwalter: A lot of us have been talking about it over the past few years, at least during my career. How we need a voice, we need to be having conversations with the stakeholders in the sport, voicing our concerns and trying to make this sport better, but we never did anything about it. This initial group of riders and also some businessmen were proactive enough to get the ball rolling. The goal for the end of last year was getting an official seat on the CPA because somehow, for all these years the North Americans and the Americans haven’t had a voice of representation.
VN: I had never realized that North American riders weren’t represented.
BB: Yeah, and that’s a big purpose too, to educate and inform. Even right now, there’s a website that’s live and it’s a good information resource for things like CPA bylaws, the collective bargaining agreement between the IGCP and the UCI and the teams, and things like the end-of-career allowance, stuff like that, that really all pros should be aware of and know about. But it’s hard. I’m guilty of that too. The past few years I haven’t wanted to spend a full week’s work digging out every piece of information that’s buried under archives and stacks.
Ideally, it would be nice to help or be a voice for some of these unrepresented countries as well. There’s big countries in this sport, I don’t think Germany has a seat in the CPA, Australia doesn’t, Great Britain doesn’t. A large percentage of the [WorldTour], the professional peloton really has no official voice to get themselves heard.
VN: So it’s really an old-world scenario? It’s Italy, Spain, and France?
BB: Exactly, yes. And as I understand it, a lot of the national associations that hold their seats in the CPA, these associations predate the CPA itself. The CPA has only existed for the past — not long before my career started — maybe 10 or 15 years. A lot of these Spanish, the Italian, the French, they’re national associations that have existed for 80-100 years and they’ve just sort of slipped in when the CPA formed. [The CPA includes Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, and Switzerland – ed.]
VN: So what’s goal No. 1? What would you want to bring to the CPA?
BB: A few of the objectives that we’re targeting right from the beginning are: one, try to create a more effective CPA. Try to encourage them to be a little more transparent, to set an agenda which is realistic but can also be evaluated, communicate better between the riders. Then also open their doors more easily and willingly to the other nations. We would like to be just a better voice for the riders in general. So when these weather issues come up, or controversy comes up, I don’t think it’s fair to have to make the riders have to stand up and take the blame and take the heat. It would be really nice if there were a collective voice that, behind the scenes, the riders can be unified with. And then the spokesperson or the speaker, they can take the heat. That’s in everyone’s best interest, the teams, the riders, and the races too.
VN: Like in Colorado last year. [Stage 2 of the USA Pro Challenge was temporarily neutralized due to weather — ed.]
BB: So that right there leads me to one of the next key objectives we’ve set out for ourselves and that’s to establish an extreme weather protocol. We’ve made some really good headway. We have a handful of doctors on the panel, we have current racers, ex-racers, we have race directors, ex-race directors, so a good resource of people that are trying to establish tangible and concise parameters for what would trigger extreme weather and also how that decision is then communicated and what it means. I think at the end of the day it’s not fair to the race, or the riders, or the sport in itself to have a decision like that to come down on an official and what kind of day they’re having. Like ‘I feel good today, they should go out and race, or I’m tired maybe they won’t race today.’ So I think having some clear and concise rules would really help.
And then, further past that, we would like to do things like increase benefits and compensation for the riders. We would like to see some tweaks to that end-of-career allowance. I think in a perfect world it would really up the professionalism of professional cycling if we could establish a greater benefits package and a retirement fund. Not only a retirement fund, but some insurance, things like that. In a lot of other sports that comes with it and it’s mandatory and in cycling there really isn’t a whole lot of it.
VN: Because there’s a minimum salary, but no minimum benefits, there’s no guarantee of insurance or anything like that?
BB: Yeah, the UCI does have some limits on what teams have to provide riders though.
VN: But some countries are going to have it different. If you live in a place with a universal healthcare system …
BB: Right, exactly. And even the minimal salaries are pretty low. Then also kind of with that, the whole points debate that’s happening right now. We feel like the riders should be involved in that conversation because it affects us. The current [UCI WorldTour] points system as it is now, is so top-heavy that it really, at times, it almost becomes a burden to the big riders, the point-getters because they have to be in races. They have to go to Beijing, they have to be getting points. A guy like myself, it definitely inhibits me, and limits my opportunity because if I’m not going to be in the top five point-getters on my team then it’s not in the team’s best interest to let me get any.
VN: What could fix that?
BB: Personally, I would just like to see a deeper spread of points. As it stands right now, it’s so GC-heavy and the Pro Tour points, [those] are extremely hard to get. I’m not saying they should be easy to get, but getting top five at a grand tour stage, or top 10 at a GC pro tour stage race, maybe one guy on each team does that each race, so that doesn’t leave a whole lot of opportunities for a rider other than a team leader to really create much value for themselves outside of a breakout day or a breakout part of the year.
VN: Do you know why Christian [Vande Velde] was particularly interested in joining up [with ANAPRC, where he is acting president]?
BB: He had a pretty long career and it spanned some definitely changing times in the sport. I think being an American in this increasingly international sport, but when he started it was largely European, there were so many moments of frustration for him of, ‘Why is this happening, why is there no logic being worked here?’ It’s just old school. We do it because it’s always been this way. So I think in a large part that propels him to do it, and wanting to leave a legacy past his race career.
And that’s part of it for me too. In 20 or 30 years, if I have kids and I’m showing them pictures of my time as a professional cyclist, which is a huge part of my life, I want to be proud of the sport that exists then, I don’t want it to be some side-show, freak-show that’s hanging on by a string, struggling to get by and they’re racing through snow or racing through fire pits or who knows what’s going on. I want to look back and be proud of what the sport is then and I think the only way we can do that is by starting now and try to make it better for the future.
“BMC rider Brent Bookwalter says the newly created ANAPRC (Association of North American Professional Road Cyclists) wants to be pro-active rather than confrontational in the way it interacts with the UCI, teams and race organisers, as it tries defend the interests of the riders in the peloton. One of ANAPRC’s first goals is to help with the introduction of an Extreme Weather Protocol, where clear rules decide if and how races should be held in extreme heat or cold.”
On Tuesday the ANAPRC announced that former Garmin rider Christian Vande Velde has been chosen as a temporary president, with other current riders, including Bookwalter, Ted King (Cannondale-Garmin), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing) and Peter Stetina (BMC) as Directors. They volunteered for the roles, with full elections to be held in early 2015. ANAPRC said it is actively seeking candidates to serve as the long-term Executive Director of the organization.
ANAPRC has become the eighth national riders' association under the umbrella of the CPA (Cyclistes Professionels Associés), the global riders' association headed by Gianni Bugno.
“As anyone who follows the sport knows, there's a lot of debate and controversy about how different interests are handled. A group of us Americans thought it was time to step up and be more pro-active in our role and how we interact with the teams and the races. Hopefully in the end its better for everyone involved,” Bookwalter told Cyclingnews at the Dubai Tour.
“We're not trying to combative or confrontational in any way, we just want to be collaborative. The key here word is pro-active. Whether that's creating a safer race and safer peloton, establishing better compensation and benefits for riders, or communicating better with the teams in the races. All those things are important.”
Establish an Extreme Weather Protocol to avoid a repeat of the Passo dello Stelvio confusion
Bookwalter rode the 2014 Giro d'Italia and so experienced first hand the chaos and health risks of racing in extreme cold condition at high altitude on the Passo dello Stelvio. An impromptu decision by the race director Mauro Vegni to informally neutralize the race near the summit to protect the riders only caused further confusion, with eventual race winner Nairo Quintana going away on the descent and gaining time on all his rivals.
The ANAPRC hopes that an Extreme Weather Protocol would help avoid similar embarrassing scenes and protect the riders.
Cyclingnews understands that other rider representatives are also working on a similar protocol and that certain race organisers are ready to put an informal protocol in place this season without waiting for a formal rule change by the UCI.
“For me a big driving force for wanting to be involved is to avoid another Stelvio stage. I don't want the sport or the riders to go through something like that ever again,” Bookwalter told Cyclingnews.
“We have a few priorities that we'd like to achieve eventually and one of these is establishing an Extreme Weather Protocol and getting that accepted by the UCI, the races and the teams. It's so that when a situation like the bad weather on the Stelvio happens, a protocol is followed that makes thing safe and clear for everybody. Right now the decision on if we race is purely discretionary. It's decided on the road, in the race, by someone making a call. We're all at fault sometimes and nobody is perfect. It's a very difficult decision to make. We think there needs to be a set protocol of how the decision is made and how it's communicated to the teams a riders and sponsors.”
Collaborative, not confrontational
Bookwalter admitted the riders did not know how the UCI, race organisers and their teams and employers will react to the creation of the association.
Riders in the peloton have rarely shown signs of unity, with protests and strikes about road conditions and safety almost always failing at the first whiff of pressure from the race organisers and teams. This is due to the riders being rivals on the road, due to different nationalities and due to pressure and threats from teams and sponsors. As a consequence the riders have very little collective bargaining power or voice on key issues that often affect them directly.
“What was revealed on Tuesday was the first public announcement,” Bookwalter explained.
“We're not sure how the teams, the races and the UCI will receive us but the people we've talked to individually, are supportive and that's good to hear. Our aim is to collaborative, not be confrontational or take over anything. I think we've done a good job getting the ball rolling. It's difficult, we're spread out all over the world but a lot of guys have invested time and effort to be on the same page and establish something to build upon.”
“We're not a union, the CPA exists in that role, we just want to have a voice. But we decided that that the best way to influence things is to have a seat on the CPA and influence their thinking so they can influence the other stakeholders such as the race organisers and the UCI.”