UCI Plans Much Faster Evacuations in Case of Serious Injury at Downhill World Championships

Oct 9, 2020
by James Smurthwaite  

Following Brook Macdonald's 5 hour ordeal on the slopes of Mont Sainte Anne last year, the UCI has published the medical procedures for evacuation in case of another bad injury in the downhill World Championships this weekend. Thankfully it seems that Leogang is much better prepared for a serious incident and the UCI is expecting much faster evacuation times this year

A contributing factor to Brook's delayed evacuation from the mountain was that it was difficult to access the track with a helicopter. Leogang should be far more prepared than Mont Sainte Anne with 3 helipads on the mountainside within easy reach of the track. The UCI also claims that 85% of the Leogang track is directly accessible via a forest path and the final 15%, which seems to be the new fresh-cut section in the steep woods, apparently has had three rescue routes dug in to help get riders out, all of which should help in case of a helicopter evacuation.

Alongside the improved helicopter access, there will also be a large number of medical staff lining the track including 32 marshalls, six paramedics, four mountain rescuers, two ambulances and an emergency doctor. All this combined should allow a rider to get medical attention much quicker than in Mont Sainte Anne.

The UCI claims that a marshall will be at the scene of an accident within an average of 30 seconds and a paramedic and mountain rescuer will be on the scene within an average of 3 minutes. This is a minute quicker than in Brook's injury, where the UCI confirmed it took 4 minutes for a first aider to arrive. The UCI said, "first aiders were on the scene within four minutes to stabilise Brook’s spinal column, place him in a secure position, and carry out an initial assessment that determined he was suffering severe pain in the lower back and pelvic regions, hyperesthesia in one lower extremity and altered motor function in the other." That minute might not sound like much but in serious incidents, every second is crucial.

Following the first aid, the UCI is expecting the emergency doctor and an operations manager to be on the scene within 8 minutes on average in Leogang. This is about a quarter of the time is took them to arrive during Brook's injury, where the UCI said: "The first doctor was on the scene within 30 minutes with all the necessary heart monitoring equipment and sedatives. From that point on, the victim’s spinal column was perfectly stabilised, his vital signs and blood oxygen levels monitored, and morphine administered."

With three helipads, the UCI expects a helicopter to be at the place of operation anywhere from 6-12 minutes, depending on which helipad is used. This again is much faster than in Brook's case, where it took a number of hours. The flight time from the nearby helipad to the hospital is claimed to be 5 minutes or, if an ambulance is sufficient, the journey will take 16 minutes.

We commend the UCI and local organisers for being much more prepared for a serious injury at this year's World Champs and hope that its rescue plan won't have to be put into practice this year.

The full Rescue Plan can be found below:

Press Release: UCI

Medical care resources along the route

- 32 Marshalls
- 4 Paramedics
- 4 Mountain rescuers
- 4 Staff of the biker rescue service
- 1 Operations manager = emergency paramedic
- 1 Emergency doctor
- 3 equipped helicopter landing pads
- 2 Ambulance vehicles
- 1 Quad of biker rescue
- Direct radio connection to the state control centre Rotes Kreuz Salzburg

Additionally: 1 paramedic in the finish and 1 additional paramedic on call in the finish area

Special material equipment for medical care

Mountain Rescue Service:
4 UT-2000 (Special stretcher for terrain)
Vacuum mattress and rescue sheet for direct transfer to the rescue helicopter

Emergency doctor:
Medumat for possible ventilation of patients requiring intensive care
LP15 – EKG for monitoring/ reanimation
Various emergency medicines
suction unit

Every paramedic always has digital radios - permanent radio connection
HWS- Immobilization collar
Ambulance backpack for medical care of the injured person
Vacuum mattress and scoop stretcher, rescue sheet for removal/transfer

Operating times (average):

Marshall to Injured person - 30sec. to the radio message
Paramedic to Injured person - 3 min
Mountain rescuers to Injured person - 3 min
Operations manager to Injured person - 8 min
Emergency doctor to Injured person - 8 min
Rescue helicopter to Place of operation from 6 to 12 minutes


Rescue helicopter to Hospital 5 min
Ambulance vehicle to Hospital 16 min
(Krankenhaus – Tauernklinikum Zell am See; Medical practitioner Dr. Rainer 5 min)

Procedure of an operation:
1. marshall radios to head of operations
2. operations manager sends mountain rescue and paramedics to the
casualty/Marshall, at the same time emergency doctor on the way to the casualty
3. primary care by paramedics
4. rescue by the mountain rescue service and biker rescue / supply by paramedics - if
necessary parallel alerting of emergency helicopter
5. in the case of seriously injured persons, the emergency doctor and head of
operations are immediately called in
6. direct rope rescue by the rescue helicopter if necessary
7. rescue to the transfer point to the Red Cross vehicle
8. transport by ambulance or rescue helicopter to the hospital

Additional information:

85% of the trail are directly accessible via a forest path. Along the last 15% of the trail there are a total of 3 rescue routes, so that an injured person can leave the steep forest terrain as quickly as possible. Mountain rescuers and paramedics are positioned directly along the route (key points); minor injuries (abrasions, ...) are treated by the paramedic/doctor in the first aid room directly at the valley station.


  • 83 0
 To be fair, Austria is usually well equipped for these kind of races due to ski races in similar areas which are the most important sport events in our forest nation. To claim these features as improvements by UCI is strange, we will see if there are changes in MSA, too.
  • 28 0
 Exactly, and our mountain rescue guys are pretty quick.
  • 5 1
 Shouldn't race if they don't!
  • 31 0
 Which makes what happened at MSA even more disturbing. It’s an extremely popular and busy winter ski resort complete with ski racing and high performance camps etc, etc. I know it’s generally far easier to get a skier/snowboarder out, but still, the infrastructure and plans are there and get used multiple times a year. Also... the UCI presenting this plan and comparing it to what happened with Brooke at MSA means these guys have been racing at World Cup level events without similar plans in place??!! Wow...
  • 13 0
 Both venues have been hosting DH for many years and should clearly have stuff in place. I don’t think it’s fair to assume that the epic fk up at MSA would have been repeated anywhere else.

There seemed to be stuff going on at MSA about legal liability and cost that meant the safety provision was compromised.
  • 3 12
flag jomacba (Oct 10, 2020 at 0:10) (Below Threshold)
 @islandforlife: probably a language barrier....
  • 6 0
 ...and the rescue teams and hospitals around Leogang Bikepark are very busy heli people out multiple teams a day. A lot of people highly underestimate what a bikepark is and what skillset it requires. So the rescue teams are well "trained" and also first responders have stepped up their game in Leogang during the last couple of years.

Hopefully nobody will need any help after a crash this weekend.
  • 4 0
 On the other hand, besides of racing my experience is that in Europe they will send you heli for most of the cases, in Whistler for example I'd say the heli went only for really terrible accidents as it was resorts money to pay the bill before they handover you to medics on the edge of the resort
  • 1 0
 I wonder what happens when the weather is so bad that the heli cannot fly. I remember a fun mass start race in Saalbach (less then 10 km from Leogang - as the crow fly). And the start was postponed because the helicopter could not land in case of emergency. But maybe they can land even in bad weather when there are well equipped helipads and/or better equipped helicopters.
  • 5 0
 @bok-CZ: In Austria you should have an insurance which covers such heli rescue operations. If you don't have one it could cost you also e.g. 4000 Euro. But you are billed afterwards. The hospital care should be covered by your mandatory health insurance - even if you are from another European country. Ten years ago in Portes du Soleil (Les Gets, Morzine, Chatel, Champery, ...) the heli rescue was included in the bike park ticket (a friend was flown out of the forest with a broke ancle.) In Canada you have to have your credit card ready. If you travel you should have an insurance which covers those costs.
  • 1 0
 In 2017 Remi was rather quickly air vacated with his spinal injuries. I am glad this is making press as it may insure a global golden standard of sorts but Leogäng was always well prepared for injuries.
  • 8 0
 @islandforlife: in winter at msa you can easily access almost anywhere with a rescue snowmobile. This place is nothing like the Alps. There are multiple access roads and most ski tracks are easily ridable. For the few sections that are too steep, patrols use sleds to get the injured skiers down the hill.
Both these methods are quick and safe, we usually get injured people in the clinic at the bottom of the hill within 15 minutes from the moment we get the call. From there, if needed, it’s a 5 minutes ambulance drive to the hospital. So there is no real need for a risky and expensive heli evac.
Summer is different though. They are simply not set up for proper evac coverage and I guess the owner (Resort of the Canadian Rockies, who owns a number of large resorts across Canada) is not willing to invest for proper summer evac setup as there are little business going on on summer. Always a money thing..

Also I think that the UCI is part of the problem right now. While they ask for large sums of money to the organiser to hold the event, it’s very difficult for the organiser to generate money from mtb racing events. So how could you expect the organiser to be able to pay for a standby evac helicopter? It’s easy for the UCI to make a statement like they just did today that evac procedures will be improved. But they will have to walk the talk and find a way to keep the events viable while investing more money for emergency procedures. Especially for the venues that are not already setup for heli evac.
  • 1 0
 @noox: I guess if they call the race on sunday it will be because of the impossibility of carring people off the track. Maybe the heli can still fly, but it's not easy nor safe to carry a possibly badly injured rider down a muddy or snow coverd slope. We'll see
  • 4 0
 Yep. Uci did nothing, that is business as usual in the Alps. Heli out for as "little" as broken leg
  • 1 0
 I was also wondering about these so called improvements on behalf of the UCI. This is more or less the same standard as the last years in Leogang, as far as I can tell from a spectator point of view over the last years. Helicopter on standby, several paramedic or mountain rescuer along the track. The UCI should ensure that speedy procedures are standard to all races, not only for Leogang 2020 where the standard is at a pretty high level. It is a dangerous sport and a lot can go wrong very quickly. The time Brook had to wait for an evac is a shame and considering the severity of his injury. It is a miracle that it ended no worse than it did and that he is already back. What a beast he is and what a great attitude this dude has!
  • 41 1
 This shouldn’t be news. Just standerd for every race.
  • 21 3
 Yes it should, but credit where it's due for learning from a badly managed situation last year and ensuring the procedures are appropriate going forward.
  • 3 0
 @Toki83: this shows that the venue takes its shortfall seriously, and it shows that other venues should as well. Its called leading by example.

"hey guys, i messed up, it won't happen again. We should all learn from my mistake so we don't do it again and we can all continue to benefit"
  • 30 0
 UCI plans to not let injured, paralysed, competitors lay in the dirt for hours on end with no coherent plan of what to do. Wow congrats UCI, you guys are great!
  • 14 0
 This should be called the UCI “Bulldog Rule”
  • 10 0
 this is no new stuff for leogang, what the uci tries to sell as improvement over msa is mediocre standard for leogang/austria. be it mtb, skiing and even backcountry freeride events. uci is decorating themselves with forrest nation achievements. cmon dick pound, you can do better.
  • 2 0
 Yes! Where is Dick Pound when you need him?
  • 5 0
 I applaud any advances like this in medical first response and safety planning. It is just a shame that it always seems to be as a result of catastrophic injury to someone or loss of life. There are lots of very smart people out there in first response and rescue planning fields who can prevent these occurrences from happening that are oftentimes not listened to until it becomes an "I told you so situation". Let's hope we continue to learn from these unfortunate circs and march on towards better safety for all.
  • 14 5
 Oh look at that fast reaction of the UCI. It just took over a year
  • 8 2
 Right?? I mean we've had almost an entire season of racing go by and... Oh wait a minute no we haven't....
  • 6 0
 That photo of Wynn and Blenki is powerful. GC's for life.
  • 1 0
 The real heroes that day.
  • 1 0
 Can't be sure it's Blenki with sleeves down and gloves on... Helping a brother out like a boss.
  • 2 0
 While we all wish this would have been standard protocol from the get to, these seem to be significant measures and improvements. Thank you UCI and Leogang for putting these protocols into place. I hope the marshals and medical staff have an uneventful weekend.
  • 2 0
 People have zero clue how behind the times search and rescue is in Canada. Quebec is one of the worst equipped provinces for an emergency like Brook’s.

You cannot compare Austria to Canada, apples and oranges.

Zero mention whatsoever of alternatives to landing the helicotper, like hoist or longline rescue, which don’t require a helipad. This article is written by someone who doesn’t understand what challenges Brook faced and why.

Totally unacceptable, and totally preventable. I feel for Brook.
  • 1 0
 For Ski Racing this is mandatory. Each hosting venue must provide a Medical Plan at the coaches meeting before heading out to the race venue. Regardless of level of racing, ALL DH and Enduro event Host resorts must provide the EAP and be posted for everyone to read and see. It could be located at Registration or Timing. Very simple, not a burden to the race organizer at all.
  • 1 0
 Looks like a solid plan. They even put there response times out there, which shows they have been training. Interesting how different the same services are in different places. I work in the emergency field, and I can tell you every bird we land for a trauma alert is at least $15,000. That does not include any advanced treatment or interventions. Tip of the spear care, extremely fast response, but it costs.
  • 3 0
 Vero Widmann took a heli ride in quali, she seemed to be pretty happy about it
  • 3 0
 It’s great that a marshal can be on scene quickly, but how many of them are first aid trained?
  • 2 0
 None or very few. Their job is to signal injuries to the first aid.
  • 2 0
 I get they arent trained medics, but most functional humans can perform basic first aid. Its hard to believe there are grown adults that participate in outdoor activities at any degree and have ZERO first aid training.
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: Don’t forget that marshals are volunteers most of the times. It’s hard work finding hundreds of volunteers, let alone volunteers with first aid training. MTB racing doesn’t generate enough money to pay such a large amount of people. This is why they will have limited trained first aid people (paid), but plenty of marshals (Volunteers) along the track to call the first aid when needed.
  • 4 0
 I've gotten Red Cross first aid training for some of my work as a teacher. The thing the training emphasizes most is communicating to the next level of emergency responders, doing crowd control to keep the injured person and first reponders unhassled, and _not_ inadvertently making the injured person's situation worse. There were very few instances where we were trained to provide actual treatment. Only the stuff that is critical in the first few minutes like CPR. So it's not all that different from being a course marshal.
  • 4 0
 @RonSauce: basic first aid is one thing and I agree they should know how to do that. Safely stabilizing a person with a potential spinal cord injury/TBI in an alpine environment is a bit of a different skill set and not something that can be learned in a 2-hour class
  • 3 0
 @sjma: thats part of basic first aid, if you think there is any possibility of spinal damage you dont move them, and you keep them from moving until someone better trained can help.
First aid is basically stopping severe bleeding, stopping the person from moving and keeping them calm while you wait for help. Every person over the age of 10 active in any sport or outdoor activity should have basic first aid knowledge/training. A one day class should easily cover more than I think a Marshall would ever need to know, considering they do have medical support.
  • 1 0
 It is a risky sport and I want the athletes providing the entertainment to be well taken care of in any eventuality. Looking forward to seeing these measures continue to improve at all venues.
  • 3 0
 This is a start, hopefully doesn't need to be used.
  • 2 0
 And people wonder why MSA wasn’t on the list of upcoming races...
  • 1 0
 They should have some of those British jet packs from a few weeks ago on standby.
  • 1 1
 It’s as if they hired a professional to manage their MEDEVAC planning for this year
  • 1 0
 Better late then never I guess.
  • 1 0

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