There’s a mini-fuss at the moment over some of the UCI rules. Specifically rule 1.3.014 requires the saddle to be level:
1.3.014 The saddle support shall be horizontal. The length of the saddle shall be 24 cm minimum and 30 cm maximum.
Only during the season some riders have been using a tilt on their saddle. Some prefer this position naturally but there are biomechanical gains possible for a time trial where the rider tips the nose of the saddle down. When turning a big gear they can push against the saddle as they push down on the pedals. If it helps, think of it like doing a leg press when you’re seated, if you want to push big weights whilst seated then it helps to do it with your back against something. In years past some riders have gone to extreme examples which have since been banned.
Rules aren’t rules
But the point here isn’t bio-mechanical, it’s the way riders had been doing something all season only for the rules rules to suddenly be enforced at the Tour de France. Now I’m all in favour of the rules being applied, it’s the inconsistency that’s bad. Tolerating breaches of the rules throughout the year only to insist on them minutes before the biggest time trial of the year so far surely isn’t the way to run the sport? It makes pro cycling look a bit unprofessional, as if the rules are selective and deployed on a whim. This shouldn’t be the case, if a rule exists then it has to be valid all year round.
Also if there’s going to be a crackdown, some advance warning is good. Unlike a doping raid, where catching someone red handed has its uses, there’s little use in trying to “bust” teams in the race. It’s a clear case where advance notice is a winner. If the UCI were to say “we’ll be especially tight on the bike rules” a month in advance then everyone would be warned. But riders have been training and racing on their TT bikes with angled saddles right up until yesterday.
More measurement rules
Here’s another rule from the UCI book:
2.2.032 Except in time trials, all the vehicles accompanying the race are restricted to a maximum height of 1.60 m.
Only I can’t help noticing that Radioshack are driving the Nissan Qashqai. As well as an oddly unpronounceable name, the car is 1.61 metres high in its lowest configuration, some models are taller.
Will the UCI insist on 2.2.032. Do the commissaires have a special jig, like the one you see in the entrance to a carpark, that is set at 1.60 metres? Of course the answer is not. But again, if you have a rule, either you enforce it or you don’t. The height rule seems an odd one, perhaps to ensure big cars don’t clog the convoy or offer too much shelter to riders working their way up. But if it exists, enforce it… or scrap it.
Once there’s an attitude that teams treat the UCI rule book as if it’s an à la carte menu, picking rules they like and ignoring ones they don’t then the rules themselves lose credibility. Worse, like a police force that gets lazy with the law the UCI and its commissaires give up a bit of their authority when they get selective about applying the rules.
The UCI might have been surprised to find teams fighting the race radio ban earlier this year but I can’t help wonder if a firmer approach before on other rules might have helped the UCI, it gave ground on the technical rules before and the teams willingly took it.
None of this is race-changing stuff. Garmin-Cervélo too were forced to deploy the allen keys and spirit levels moments before they started but they still won. But the rules on bike measurements are precise and if the UCI hasn’t upheld them all year, suddenly getting serious right before the time trial is a funny place to start. Better later than never perhaps but there are more professional ways to run a sport.
Finally, in case I get accused of UCI-bashing, note I want more of UCI here. I’m saying the commissaires need to be firm all year round and this is easy to do.
Thanks to the top cyclismactu website for supplying the photo