The CIC Tour Féminin Pyrénées has seen some great racing from the likes of Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step), and the FDJ-Suez pairing of Marta Cavalli and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, as those not in an SD Worx jersey hone their craft in the French mountains. However, the race has so far been defined not by the racing, but the significant safety issues that has got in the way.
First, on Friday’s stage 1 from Argelés-Gazost to Lourdes, there were multiple heart-in-mouth incidents as riders found anything from buses and cars to oblivious members of the public in their path. It begged questions of the organisation as a cloud settled over the race, and the gloom showed no sign of dissipating as the peloton arrived at the stage 2 start in Pierrefitte-Nestalas.
Wary of the event’s organisation after Friday’s concerns, the riders wanted to put the course to the test at the start of stage 2, coming together to neutralise the first 23km of the race. The security was deemed passable and the race was on after this point, however, it came to a halt again just outside 50km to go as the peloton opted to stop after a number of race motos had driven dangerously between the riders.
After about 15 minutes of discussion between race organisers, Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Human Powered Health) and former pro-cum-sports director Jolien D’Hoore (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step) among others, the French national champion herself addressed the peloton.
Riders were given the option to stay put, which would mean accepting a DNF for stage 2, or carry on in a neutralised fashion until the foot of the Hautacam in the last 14 kilometres of the stage.
“For those who want to continue, I propose we neutralise until the bottom of the Hautacam, and [then] the race is on,” Cordon-Ragot said to her gathered colleagues. “It’s not going to change anything if we neutralise because the racing is going to be in the climb. So if you all agree, the classification will be the same if we neutralise it or not.”
The peloton agreed and the race moved on towards the Hautacam.
Stage 3 update:
Following the drama of stages 1 and 2, CPA president Adam Hansen sent a letter to the race organiser detailing the significant safety risks presented to the riders.
During the mid-race neutralisation on Saturday’s stage, teams were given the choice as to whether to continue, but their inability to collect UCI points through not finishing the race was apparently a serious factor in the decision of most to proceed with the stage.
After the completion of the stage – won in convincing fashion by Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Suez) – we learned that an emergency meeting was called on Saturday night but no concrete decisions were made until early Sunday morning when teams began to withdraw of their own volition.
With the race organisers apparently determined to plough on with stage 3, Jumbo-Visma was the first team to announce its withdrawal, stating that “safety concerns on the course leaves something to be desired.”
“What a pity that the race ends this way. Not an easy decision,” Jumbo-Visma’s announcement goes on to say. “The situation on day two was significantly better than during the first stage, but safety is a concern with TJV to be able to practise the sport in a responsible way.”
Joining Jumbo-Visma in departing the race are Bizkaia Durango, Israel-Premier Tech Roland and Canyon-SRAM, with more expected to follow, but in the end, the UCI stepped in to cancel the race in the hour before the stage was due to start.
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