3 Days of De Panne Organiser insists motorbikes are there to ensurerider safety

Johan Van Hecke says the motorbikes that police races are there to ensure riders safety, despite Antoine Demoitie's death at Ghent-Wevelgem after crashing with a motorbike.

3 Days of De Panne Organiser insists motorbikes are there to ensurerider safety
Motorbikes have been part of the fabric at cycling events, but could that change soon? / Motorbiker.org

3 Days of De Panne kicked off today, with Alexander Kristoff taking victory ahead of Astana duo Lieuwe Westra and Alexey Lutsenko, but before the race all the talk was of motorbikes and whether they keep the rider safe.

At Ghent-Wevelgem on Sunday, Antoine Demoitie died after being hit by a motorbike; which has prompted an outpouring of tributes, but also questioning on whether the UCI needs to have a rethink on how motorbikes operate at major races.

It’s been a painful weekend for the sport because, as well as Demoitie passing away, another Belgian rider Daan Myngheer died after sustaining a heart attack at the Criterium International.

But the organiser of De Panne Johan Van Hecke insists that the motorbikes are there to make sure the riders are safe, as he spoke to Cycling Weekly before today’s opening stage.

De Panne organiser likes more ‘fixed signallers’ than ‘mobile signallers’

Policing and making sure riders are safe in major events is always a headache for organisers, but after this weekend’s incident; organisers of the biggest events will be going over their use of motorbikes and how they can keep the riders out of the danger.

Kristoff won the opening stage of De Panne / Cycling Weekly
Kristoff won the opening stage of De Panne / Cycling Weekly

And it seems the Van Hecke, De Panne’s organiser goes down a different route in terms of rider’s safety. “We ourselves provide for years the minimum number of mobile signallers, namely 15,” which compared to other events is significantly low.

But he said: “Instead, we opt for more signallers which are fixed on the street.”

The UCI will have to address the incident from the weekend, and when they do it will be interesting to see what is said. More signallers on the street could be the way forward for cycling instead of opting for the rolling motorbikes to patrol the route.

So altogether Van Hecke has about 25 supporting vehicles during the race, which he says "are well distributed throughout the caravan."