Cycling: Cyclists faced with 'red cards' as UCI unveils new safety rules

Chris Froome of Team Israel Start-Up Nation pedals during the UAE Cycling Tour on Feb 22, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - The International Cycling Union (UCI) unveiled its new set of rules on Thursday (Feb 25) aimed at making the sport safer with punishments in one-day races extending to an immediate red card.

In stage races, a first offence will be treated with a 30-second penalty, the second with two minutes and the third with an exclusion.

Among the changes is a ban on riders sitting on the horizontal tube of the bike, a manoeuvre first used by the Slovenian Matej Mohoric but popularised by Chris Froome on his way to Tour de France victory in 2016.

Riders will also need to be more wary of how they dispose of their drinks bottles while riding as a careless toss, which can lead to accidents, may also provoke an instant ban.

Certain measures have come into force immediately, while others will be introduced on April 1 or later.

"These new measures are part of a comprehensive safety plan for riders, men and women," declared the UCI which said they had been "accepted unanimously" by representatives of teams, riders and organisers.

"If the organisers will have to take into account new directives for the organisation of their events, the riders and teams will also have to modify certain habits and practices," said the statement.

Froome, who rides for Israel Start-Up Nation, had been less effusive when the changes were first mooted at the start of February.

"Next they'll be banning stem watching and elbows sticking out...," tweeted the four-time Tour de France winner.

However, David Lappartient, president of the UCI told AFP on Thursday that the rule change came after discussion with the riders.

"They tell us that if we leave this as a permissible tactic, then it forces others to adopt it," he said.

"They have no other choice. There is such a gain in CX (aerodynamic drag) and therefore of speed that, if they don't do it, they are dropped on the downhill."

Lappartient also defended the change in how riders dispose of drinks bottles.

They will now be required to deposit them in dedicated areas which will be roughly every 30-40km along the road.

Flinging a bottle or can down outside these zones will land the rider in hot water.

"There is first the safety aspect, with the risk of falling in the peloton," he told AFP.

"The other aspect that should not be underestimated is the environment.

"We cannot continue to have as an image of cycling one where the environment dies when a bicycle goes past. Strong measures had to be taken, which were unanimously approved.

"Remember, there were demonstrations when the UCI imposed the helmet (in 2003).

"Today it would never occur to anyone to start a race without a helmet. Tomorrow it will be the same for throwing bottles into nature or adopting a (risky) position on the bike. It will be obvious."

Gianni Bugno, president of the Association of Professional Cyclists said: "We fully support the decisions taken at the last UCI management committee on February 4 after a consultation process in which our representatives participated alongside other cycling families."

Other new regulations, related to the safety of the courses, the installation of crash barriers, and the appointment and training of security officials will take effect from April 1.

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