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Brian Cookson: Cycling must learn from Antoine Demoitie death

UCI president Brian Cookson believes improvements in safety within cycle road racing would give Antoine Demoitie the legacy he deserves.

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The president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), Brian Cookson, has said cycling must learn lessons from the death of Antoine Demoitie, but has warned against jumping to conclusions regarding the incident that led to the tragedy.

Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider Demoitie died at the age of 25 after he was hit by a pace motorcycle following a fall in the Gent-Wevelgem race on Sunday.

In a lengthy letter posted on the UCI website, Cookson offered his "deepest sympathy and condolences to Antoine's family and team" before promising a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Demoitie's death.

"Firstly, we must ensure that the incident itself is fully investigated – and of course the UCI will cooperate with the relevant authorities, whose job it now is to do that," wrote Cookson.

"Secondly, we must ensure that we all – the UCI and everyone involved in cycle road racing – learn lessons from this specific incident, as well as from other incidents that have caused injury to riders and others in recent months.

"A really important aspect of this is not to jump to conclusions without knowing the full facts. I have to say that, from first reports, this incident does not appear to be as simple a case as many seem to think."

Cookson continued: "Complex problems require complex solutions. The fact is that road racing as we know it and love it could not take place without motorcycles, cars and other vehicles, often in close attendance. They are there to carry out a function and that function relates directly to how and where they are in the race.

"So many people have commented on the recent tragedy, believing that the motorcycle in question was there to take television footage or photographs. It wasn't. Neither was it a case of an inexperienced motorcyclist. Nor a case of a motorcyclist overtaking riders in a reckless fashion.

"I can't say too much more, but the point I am making is, I hope, clear – if you want to find solutions, you have to correctly identify the problem.

"So here is the issue. I'll take my responsibilities seriously, as will the whole of the UCI. And I'm asking everyone to do the same – yes, motorcycle pilots have to ensure they don't interfere with the racing, or cause danger to the riders or others.

"Race organisers have to ensure that their courses are as safe as possible, correctly marshalled, signed and with riders and spectators protected by appropriate barriers, etc., where necessary.

"Team car drivers have to ensure that they drive safely in the race, just as they would if driving their own families. Riders have to ensure that they take responsibility for their own, and each other's safety. And the public, the fans, they too have a responsibility to behave safely and correctly at races, and not cause danger to the riders.

"I certainly anticipate that there will be changes in rules and in recommendations about the conduct of those involved. But at the end of the day, rules and recommendations can only go so far in regulating human behaviour.

"We all must remember that we have responsibility not just for our own safety but also for the safety of the people around us. Perhaps that way our sport will have a legacy that Antoine Demoitie deserves."

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