SPORTS

Tour de Korea criticized for inadequate safety

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 30, 2012 - 18:34
  • Updated : Apr 30, 2012 - 18:39
Riders take part in Stage 5 of the Tour de Korea last week. (Yonhap News)
Tour de Korea 2012 has been described as having one of the worst stages in cycling history by a number of competitors in the event that finished Sunday.

“This was a black day. A really black day,” said cyclist Lee Rodgers in a post on Velo News, a U.S.-based cycling website.

Rodgers was describing stage 5 of Tour de Korea on Thursday, which saw three motorcycle crashes and numerous injuries during the six-hour race.

Many complaints were directed at the motorbike marshals in the event. Rather than the BMWs normally used in cycling events, the marshals followed the group in high-power v-twin engines that not only caused excessive noise, but led to a number of accidents.
Ukrainian rider Yuri Agarkov is loaded onto a helicopter after a motorcycle crashed into the racer in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province, during Stage 5 of the Tour de Korea. (Yonhap News)

“Part of the problem is the size of the motorcycles, part of the problem is the lack of training,” Ed Beamon, team manager of Champion System Pro Cycling Team, was quoted as saying on Cycling iQ, another cycling website.

Both the operator of the event and the International Cycling Union acknowledged problems.

“After the event the UCI judges told us not to use Harley Davidsons in the future, and told us to choose something similar to the BMWs they use in other races,” said one organization official.

“We also plan to be more thorough in training the marshals for the next event,” said the official.

He added that the marshals involved in the incident were all part of the media pool. They had previous experience covering cycling events in Korea.

During the event, a motorbike marshal clipped a racer before hitting Yuri Agarkov, a racer for ISD Lampre Continental. Agarkov of Ukraine sustained spinal injuries in the crash, but was reported on Sunday to be recovering and in a stable condition.

“He was weaving in and out of riders on the climb, coming on the inside of us on corners, almost as if he were just having fun driving in a police-enclosed area,” said Kristian House, the rider who was clipped right before Agarkov.

The stage also saw poor preparation for medical emergencies with only two ambulances on standby, leaving other injured riders waiting for emergency paramedics called in through 119.

An official for the event stressed that it was only the sixth time Korea had held the event and much remained to be improved upon.

By Robert Lee (robert@heraldcorp.com)