Tour des Pyrénées sees its final stage cancelled due to safety concerns

Cordon-Ragot Moolman-Pasio 2023 Tour des Pyrenees

The final stage of the Tour des Pyrénées was cancelled at the eleventh hour with the stage start due to take place within 30 minutes. Overnight, discussions were underway between riders, teams, unions and the race organisation but looked set to reach a stalemate with the race unwilling to admit there was an issue with the safety of the race so far. It’s a similar story to yesterday’s stage where the riders agreed to self-neutralise that stage on the way to the Hautacam due to safety issues that had continued from Stage 1. On Stage 2, this was the way the motorbike outriders were riding through the bunch as they tried to get a rolling roadblock working more effectively, which caused the stopped race.

With the race not prepared to make changes, teams began to drop out of the race. Never an easy decision, it was complicated this year by the all-important UCI points that could see teams relegated from the Women’s WorldTour if they don’t score enough of them. Teams who look set to score points in this race were put in a position where they wanted to pull out but couldn’t just give up their potentially hard-earned efforts. The vote overnight saw 17 teams voting to stop, with 7 voting to continue. Eventually though, teams began to publicly declare their intentions.

The likes of Jumbo-Visma, Canyon SRAM, Israel Premier Tech Roland and Bizkaia Durango were amongst the first to declare. And whilst there was plenty of rumour, the stage wasn’t officially cancelled until there were minutes rather than hours to spare. The UCI stepped in to ensure the overall cancellation, which preserved the result from yesterday’s Hautacam stage. That makes Marta Cavalli the overall winner by just 3 seconds from Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio.

Later on, there was more controversy as an interview with a local Pyrénéan media outlet showed no contrition from the race organiser. More than that, they placed the blame for the cancellation on the riders for expecting too high standards. That received plenty of ire on social media as fans and riders reacted to a race organiser not willing to prepare basic race safety.

 “What is happening is that the girls have requirements that are not in line with their level. They imagine that they are on the Tour de France and that all the roads must be closed, that everything must be locked. But in France, you cannot do that.

Quite honestly, I tell myself that it is not worth organising a race to see all those months of effort ruined for the whims of spoiled children And I’m thinking of all the volunteers who are mobilizing, to be clear, it’s catastrophic for morale”

Pascal Baudron, race director

“I feel mixed because I find it a shame for the organisation, at the same time, if we continue to tolerate for too long, it’s safety that’s at stake. Yes, it was among the worst races I’ve done, but on the other hand, it’s true that other races were also dangerous”.

Simone Boilard, St Michel-Mavic-Auber93

“The situation is delicate. We are aware that without organisers we would not exist and we are lucky to have a full schedule. But when security is deemed too low, we cannot make our sportswomen take unnecessary risks. We had decided not to make a decision before the start this morning (Sunday) out of respect for the organisers. It’s a sad day for women’s cycling but also an important day for the rest of its history which will be beautiful if all the players work hand in hand”

Gaël Lebellec, director of Cofidis

“It was a complicated night and morning. There have been a lot of discussions and debate. It’s hard to get everyone on the same page because we all have different motivations and levels in this race. It’s really easy for the Women’s World Tour teams to make a statement and to leave because they are part of the World Tour. They have a lot of security in races. In a race like this one, of the third category UCI 2,1, we have different objectives and teams. As long as there were UCI points on the line, the teams who want to go to the World Tour, or trying to move up or obtain sponsors, wanted these points.

I tried to see all the sides and had a proposal. I am a bit older and have my own business so I understand a bit more. A race is also a business after all. My proposal was to start and do the race so we respect all parties. We would neutralise it. We can take advantage of the tv exposure that was paid for and we can make a statement this way. I thought that was the best for all parties involved. The smaller teams didn’t agree to this proposal because they feared they wouldn’t be the talking points in the coverage or feature in the coverage.

Finally, I would like to add one important thing. There is a lot of pressure in women’s cycling now to tick all the boxes: have the races, have the prize money, have the tv exposure. The priority now is that it should be in the correct order. The organizers have prioritised exposure and prize money but priorities need to be in the correct order: first safety, then exposure and then prize money. When our safety is 100% secured, we would like to return again next year.”

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-step

2023 Tour des Pyrénées final GC standings

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