UCI's new technical regulations as clear as mud
UCI technical regulation logo
The UCI re-released their technical regulations last week in an attempt to clear up the debate over what riders are and aren't allowed to ride in their races.
After a mini panic at this year's Tour of California when several teams thought they were about to be barred from starting because of 'illegal' handlebars, the governing body have now attempted to make the rules crystal clear.
Or, in the words or their technical advisor Jean Wauthier; "to avoid any erroneous interpretations." There are not, he said, any new rules
The panic in California came about after the UCI sent out a letter to all professional teams and national federations reminding them that the rules in the regulations were enforcable, and a stricter stance would be taken this year.
The problem was that manufacturers and teams had all interpretted the rules differently. Consequently, of the brands used by the pro teams, only Bontrager had built their tri-bars within the 3:1 ratio as others thought that this rule only applied to the tubes of the frame.
At a press conference in California, President Pat McQuiad confirmed the rules would be enforced but they would give everyone some slack in order to make any necessary adaptations.
It now seems the slack has been taken in just before the Tour.
Wauthier confirmed to Cycling Weekly that two out of three manufacturers had come in line with the 3:1 ratio on tri-bars and that they were meeting with the final one this week.
Landis lives on
Perhaps the rule that will have the biggest affect throughout the peloton is the one about forearms. Something, you could argue, has little to do with engineers, techies and bike nuts.
The rule states; The rider’s forearms must be positioned in a horizontal plane and the extension designed in such a manner that the rider can adopt and maintain a regulatory position for the entire duration of the event.
This rule affectively outlaws the 'Landis' position - where the hands are higher than the elbows making the arms point upwards - that has been used by more and more riders of late. Although it's not immediately clear why this position is banned, it's likely to be related to the rule that the riders support points should be the tip of the saddle and the hands on the handlebars. The thinking is that the 'Landis' position would essentailly make the elbows a support point.
Another rule that could have an effect in the pro peloton is the one that states; Prototypes and the use of equipment specially designed for a particular athlete, event or performance is prohibited. “Special design” means a bicycle with a technical added value when compared with other equipment.
How many times in the last few years have we seen the likes of Lance Armstrong on a new time trial bike made especially for him? Even in this year's Dauphine Libere Alberto Contador was on a new time trial bike from Trek. Is this common practice to be outlawed?
This rule will also cause some concern at the new Cervelo Test Team. The whole premise of the team was that the riders were there to help develop the bikes and equipment and would be testing new equipment in the toughest environment.
Not any more.
The rules also state that all bikes used must be 'marketable', i.e. they're available for the general public to buy. This could trip-up British Cycling as they now make all their own equipment. Their pursuiting tri-bars also break the rules seeing as they're 'built on two planes'. I tried contacting Chris Boardman earlier this week, but there's a very definite silence coming from the Manchester velodrome these days.
But despite the attempt to clear-up any missunderstandings, there is still plenty of room for interpretation, not least because enforcement of the rules is down to the commissaire present on the day.
When I contacted CW's aero and TT expert Michael Hutchinson, he confirmed that it would be quite easy to get around the banned 'Landis' position.
Dr Hutch's experience at his Athlete's Hour record attempt also beautifully illustrates the problems the UCI will have in enforcing any rule. As he was warming up, the commissaire overseeing his attempt said to a member of his support crew that his oversocks were an aerodynamic aid and therefore weren't allowed.
"But Chris Boardman used them in his Athlete's Hour record ride," came the response.
"Well, he shouldn't have," said the 'man in the blazer.'
The commissaire then went on to say that if there was another reason that Hutchinson was wearing the oversocks it would be perfectly fine. And so was born the first oversock that was integral to the make up of a cycling shoe.
All eyes will now be on Monaco to see who's riding what.
Go to the UCI's website to download the regulations in full.