World Tour Fines Need Increasing

Friday, 3 March 2017

It’s said Peter Sagan, Sep Vanmarcke and Greg Van Avermaet “could face fine for sidewalk riding at Omloop” as cyclingnews reports what Belgium’s Sporza interview with UCI commissaire Guy Dobbelaere.

These issues keep cropping up. As ever a rule is no good if it can’t be enforced. If there’s no way to force riders to comply in the heat of battle then why not hit them and their teams where it hurts: the bank account. For too long the UCI fines have been so cheap they’re practically an invitation to break the rules.

There is debate to be had about using these paths and tracks, knowing where they are is part of the skill and if you are in a large group then it pays to fight for position because one minute the bunch is spread across the road and the next it will be lined out in the track and this could be ruinous in a crosswind. In short the tracks are part of the terrain and tactics even if they’re risky, especially if spectators stand there or a parked car lurks…but that’s for another day. Instead this piece is simply about the level of the fines.

What do Sagan, Vanmarke, GVA and others risk? 200 Swiss Francs (CHF) each, roughly the same sum in US dollars or Euros. Here’s a cropped image from the UCI rulebook:

That’s no deterrent, for starters three times 200 CHF adds up to 2% of the prize pot available to the three podium finishers. So if you can gain advantage avoiding the cobbles this is a bargain: spend €190 to boost your chances of winning tens of thousands in prize money at the finish line.

Even this simple calculus doesn’t apply since team pay the fines, typically netting them off prize money thereby rendering the monetary consequences of breaking the rules even more distant. It’s likely that the amount of fines levied isn’t even communicated to the racers so the consequences are even more remote.

As the screengrab of the rules above show there are two tiers of fines in the UCI rulebook, one for pro races and another for others, ie *.2, U23 and junior UCI races. The pro fines are roughly double the amateur ones. Here lies a problem given a 100 CHF fine might make a junior or U23 amateur think twice but a World Tour pro and their team? Never.

Proportionality matters, the fines need to signal the price to be paid and signal a deterrent. The fine shown above is 200 CHF and a handful that are higher – punch a spectator and you risk 5000 CHF – but most fines are 50, 100 or CHF CHF. This amount is too small, there needs to be a zero or more on the end of the number here or perhaps even levy on the basis of team budgets so that the biggest richest teams pay according to their means?

A further reason to reflect on the need for a deterrent is the exemplary aspect of the World Tour, where riders are role models and have their every move broadcast on TV. So when someone slings a gel wrapper into the wild then the message should go out that this isn’t pro. All the waste zones and warnings are

Before this is seen as a money-spinner for the UCI remember that fines levied are levied in Swiss francs because the governing body is based in Switzerland but the money goes to the host country’s federation, so a fine levied during the Omloop goes to the Belgian federation and not the UCI. Above all these fines are all avoidable if riders stick to the road and follow the roles.

Fairplay Classification: the Giro d’Italia keeps a running total of fines levied during a race and each day the team with the cleanest record wins: Lotto-Jumbo won in 2016. It’s a system that ought to be replicated during the year with the teams ranked on the basis of their fair play and the team wins a prize at the UCI’s gala.

Conclusion
The UCI fines are set too low. Paying 200 Swiss Francs in order to swap cobbles for a bike path isn’t just a business expense paid by teams, it’s a bargain and it signals aloud that breaking the rules is a matter of loose change for teams with multi-million Euro budgets. Chucking a gel wrapper into the countryside has no consequence. The fines levied have been unchanged for decades. It time for higher tariffs to reflect the prestige of the World Tour, the exemplary status of riders on TV and to bolster the deterrent effect. If the commissaires are powerless to stop riders on the day then let the bank managers get involved.

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Exky Thump March 3, 2017 at 10:16 am

Hard to disagree with any of this.
In addition, how about a totting up scheme – so many ‘offences’ and the rider concerned gets a ban?

J Evans March 3, 2017 at 10:19 am

Cordon off pavements with some canes and plastic tape or use barriers every few metres.
Simple, uncontroversial and preventative. So, the UCI will never do it.

The Inner Ring March 3, 2017 at 11:08 am

This is about more than the course, it’s the fines for littering, drafting a car, ignoring a commissaire etc etc

J Evans March 3, 2017 at 11:31 am

The UCI consistently fails to uphold its rules, which fosters a culture of cheating – from big to small.
As you – and Nick below – say, it would be good to greatly increase the fines, but firstly the UCI needs to uphold its rules (including the ones you mention).
And before that, it needs to make its rules sensible – as Anonymous suggests below, a lot of UCI rules don’t benefit the sport (one example – the new weather rules: see last year’s Tirenno-Adriatico).
Also, prevention is better than punishment and this is one example where the rule could easily be enforced.
We hoped that the last change of president would improve matters, but things seem as shambolic (the list is too long to go into) – not to mention drug-tinged – as ever. Time for another change and hope for the best. The buck stops at the person at the top.

CA March 3, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Agreed, but I’ll go a step further. The UCI is beyond reform at this point.

What you need is an organiser to say to the teams before the race (and get them to formally agree to in their application to race), “if you ignore these UCI rules, it makes my event look bad on television, therefore I will reduce your prize money and if you continually violate this, I might not invite you back”.

As Inrng points out, littering looks awful to the casual fan, and riding behind cars makes many fans call these guys cheaters, which hurts TV ratings. This can’t be left to the UCI any longer.

Anonymous March 3, 2017 at 10:32 am

Leave it exactly how it is. Or let the UselessCylingInternational develop another volume of rules to choke the enjoyment of the sport.

Nick March 3, 2017 at 11:13 am

No need to change the rules, just make the fine equivalent to the prize money for winning the event. That way you get to keep any title won through cheating, but don’t see any financial reward. The teams will soon let the riders know what they think of breaking these rules then.

Michael B March 3, 2017 at 11:31 am

Agree with the sentiment of the piece. And for all we rightly criticise the fans who get in the way on Tour climbs etc the reverse is true in this scenario – it’s surely only a matter of time until a rider hits a fan who is on the pavement.

Larrick March 3, 2017 at 11:56 am

Your opening paragraph points out that there actually has yet to be any fines issued. It leads me to ask that if the commissaire decides not to fine the riders, or any other commissaire doesn’t strictly adhere to the regulations, what recourse does the UCI President/board actually have? Can they relieve the commissaire of their position or is it up to the local federation to pass judgement on the officials competence or lack of?

Hammarling March 3, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Seems like the UCI slight cornered themselves at the Omloop. Pre-race they made big efforts to talk to the teams and riders saying “don’t use the paths, or we will DQ you”. So post-race lots of images of riders using paths comes out, and a lot of angry people considering the organisers phsyically stopped some groups using paths but not others. Now the UCI is stuck, if they acknowledge certains riders broke the rules then they open up to calls of DSQ based upon their pre-race comments and if they don’t acknowledge it they look incompetent in the face of obvious proof.

And this is why the UCI are pathetic. Make one statement of serious intent, like DSQ’ing the Top3, and they’ll find a lot of problems are not replicated. But they won’t do it.

Hammarling March 3, 2017 at 12:14 pm

To be balanced and fair to the UCI (also known as, how not to be popular on cycling discussions :p) it’s not just a cycling issue. Couple of weeks ago Manchester City were fined something like £35,000 for various anti-doping breaches. We think 200CHF is peanuts to cycling, £35k to City is sub-atomic. Sports governing bodies never seem to actually punish properly or consistently at the top level until there is a seriously significant movement of sentitment from fans or participants or legal action is taken. All we’ve got to do is go back to the Roubaix Train-gate for yet more examples of pathetic UCI rule “enforcement”, as one example amongst many.

Increasing the fine on paper is one thing. It’s another to enforce it and i doubt teams will be scared of that at all based on the UCI’s previous actions, or lack there of. The Rule itself is fine but ramp up the penalty and enforce that penalty.

The penalty should be big and painful. 150% of the prize money sounds fair to me, “you’ve cheated to the win so we’re going to take away your winnings and then fine you ontop of that”. Finally we’re seeing real punishments for doping, now lets step up the enforcement of the sporting regulations. No-one can complain, otherwise they tarnish themselves as wanting to cheat.

The Inner Ring March 3, 2017 at 12:16 pm

It was partly a mention of that football fine that made me think of this topic again. My point is that enforcement is weak so if the riders/teams won’t comply and the commissaires can’t enforce change on the day then at least impose a tariff that’s suitable for World Tour races on TV.

Mabarbie March 3, 2017 at 5:55 pm

There are different punishments for cheating depending on how the cheating happens. Cheating, be it via a mechanical route or chemical route is still cheating and the measure taken should be the same, thrown out of the race at the very least and further and for repeat offenders more than that particular race. Only then will rules be adhered to better (there will always be those that push the rules though, see Sky)

Cilmeri March 3, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Rather than a monetary fine, how about time bonuses? Although impossible in one day races(!), the sentence around the fair play in the Giro intrigued me. If there’s a running total of fines issued in the day, how about the team with lowest fines in the day getting a 5 second bonus?

I’m sure there are plenty of holes in that suggestion, and as stated doesn’t help one day races, but if monetary fines are not a deterrent, perhaps some actual deterrent is required.

Nick March 3, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Time penalties could be effective in one day races. Imagine if GVA, Sagan & Vanmarcke had all been hit with a 1 or 2 min penalty, then the standings recalculated. This seems to have happened in the past; I wonder if commisaires are more reticent now it’s on TV?

Kevin C March 3, 2017 at 8:02 pm

In race time penalties like they use in Triathlon would work too. Put somebody in a penalty zone for a minute or two and have them watch the peloton ride past them. If they try to use the cars to get back on, that’s another two minutes.

The Inner Ring March 3, 2017 at 8:13 pm

All this seems to add extra complication, no? I can see the need and wish to amend things, but would first like to see them up the fines significantly as it doesn’t involve any new rules, just a quick change in price and signalling.

Anonymous March 3, 2017 at 10:00 pm

You’re wasting your time down here.
The article is simply being seen as an opportunity to bash the UCI and indulge in half-baked ‘if I ruled the world’ self-indulgence by the usual tedious self-publicists.

BC March 3, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Good post INRNG. If the UCI are going to have rules, they need enforcing – the pocket is always the best way to go, together with disqualification. Hard, but the only real way rules will be followed.

Unfortunately the UCI has a long history of failing to enforce their own rules. When it suits them they have little compunction in breaking their own rules themselves.

Anonymous March 3, 2017 at 1:51 pm

That’s funny. So let’s look at this race incident without being pushed by the various interests into lane hopping:
How did we hear about this incident?
a) because 2 teams complained
b) because certain cycling news outlets have to keep up a perpetual flow of words (note: words. Not news, opinions or anything)
c) because of the people writing these words (note:not journalists. Maybe you could call them interviewers. Yes, that would be ok. Most of the time they are just relaying what others say. All they say. Whatever they say. Maybe it comes with the territory, who knows, maybe if you always have to pretend anything is “outrageous” and worth words, you simply lose the ability, to tell the truth or just tell someone: “Dont’ be silly on purpose”)

Ok, we know the “How” and now we come to the part, that indeed is the most interesting: WHY did we hear about this? The reason is NOT, that some teams broke the rules, no, the reason is that 2 others WERE HINDERED on breaking the rules
So….Just think about this. I mean for real. Take a second to think about it.

This is putting the idea of justice or rules ad absurdum! Indeed, those that do this, should be the ones getting a fine. For abusing justice.
Plus we only heard something from them, because they think they could have won something with breaking the rules. If they would have been chanceless, we wouldn’t have heard a peep. And that is also the point, where trek and lotto begin to (ab)use their publicity, instead of being normal grown up people with a sense of honor and chalking this up as a loss. I bet anything, that, if the comissaire wouldn’t have stopped them, after letting through the first 3, we would never heard any of it (and it has to be pointed out, that van Stuyven did the same, too in this race, as pictures show!). Come on, get real.

So, we have a whole bunch of people colluting to create a whole bunch of nonsense. You could make an excellent comedy about this. Only – in reality it isn’t funny. I know, higher fines is a pet idea of this blog and I kinda maybe unterstand that in a different scenario it could perhaps…maybe…in some way… be a point of discussion. But in the current situation, I really don’t care.

What I would care about, is, if anybody would have cared enough and had dared to ask – or had the balls in Saganspeak-why it is possible, that the uci steals two big wins of Bouhanni (and who knows how many more in the future), although everybody knows it is nonsense? What is behind it? Is it racism? Is it that they don’t like Bouhanni, that made them steal Bouhanni’s wins, just like they stole Zakarin a win? Is it the powers to be don’t want second tier teams to win WT-races? So it is ok to take sport and justice in their own hands? Why is this possible? Why is this no talking point? Where is the uproar? That are questions we have to ask us. Especially those that always call oh soloud for an ethical sport. Here we have unethical behaviour right under their nose. No? Not interested? Hmm, how come?

The/this abuse of power is unethical and destroys a sport. Just think about the signal these decisions send to teams, riders and fans!!! That is something I could get behind: Try to implement rules, to set the power right in cycling. But higher fines for existing rules? Rules that partly make no sense and were once only implemented in concession to one or another powerful part or to have peace betweens two sides? Not really interested. Indeed, I think it would be counterproductive.

BC March 3, 2017 at 2:43 pm

Anon. For many of us the rule breaking by riding off the stones was in plain sight, live on our TV screens. It was nothing to do with other teams, the press or random commentators. This after there had been an official warning at the start of this particular event.

If rules are set by a governing body, in this case the UCI, then they have to be either enforced by some form of meaningful punishment, or discarded. There are only two possibilities.

To constantly ignore blatant rule breaking does not help promote the image of the sport.

Anonymous March 3, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Come on, you know as well as I, that this would have been a normal race incident, if not trek and lotto would have thrown a tantrum. Why do we only talk abot the first three? Because of the articles in the press and the complaints of those two teams. There are probably 100 riders, who also didn’t use the race track (including riders of trek and lotto). So no, I don’t bite.

BC March 3, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Anon. You miss the point entirely. The point is ‘what is the purpose of having rules, if teams and riders choose to ignore them’. The teams, all teams should be expected to follow the rules. In general they are there for the good of the sport.

If said rules are not serving any useful purpose, remove them.

UCI rules should be enforced. If they are not, then the question becomes ‘what is the UCIs role in the governance of the sport’.

CA March 3, 2017 at 4:46 pm

As a big racing fan, when a race has a really hard cobbled section, I get really angry watching them rip down the smooth sidewalk on the side. If I was ever talented enough to make this level, I’d like to think that I wouldn’t skip the cobbles. And then I’d complain that my competitors cheated by skipping the cobbles.

It’s total BS that GVA ignored the pre-race briefing and went on the cart path. It’s equally BS that the commissaires didn’t immediately enforce the rule – I’m assuming a commissaire car WATCHED SAGAN ET AL. ride on the sidewalk and didn’t say a thing. I mean, how weak of a sport do we have when the commissaires dont’ have the courage/or rules enforcement ability to enforce a simple rule mid-race. Why do cycling rules always get debated post-race/pre-race/offseason but during the actual race nothing happens??? It’s because our sport’s powers to be are weak have zero control. The rest of the world looks at our sport as a bit of a joke to be honest.

In North American sports, if you violate a rule, you get immediately penalised, in cycling, you get fined 200 swiss francs 2-weeks after the race? This is ridiculous right? I mean, what are the commissaire’s paid for anyways? To have a front-row view of the race?

Anonymous March 3, 2017 at 5:07 pm

No, I get that point (it isn’t very hard to be honest), but I think that is the wrong discussion to have, especially when this incident gets used as entree. Having that discussion (now) would be like standing before a burning house, seeing the door is ajar and starting a discussion, “that the door must be locked! And now we really have to make sure the kids feel it, if they don’t follow our rules!” , while the house happily falls to ashes.

Simply enforcing rules, because they are rules will never bring peace, satisfaction or respect for those rules. Exactly because the uci has a tons of silly, stupid or outright bad rules, nobody cares much for them. Because they know that probably
a) the uci has invented the rules for selfish reasons, to maintain their place in the sport
b) because they promised the rule to their allies
c)because they promised the rule inside a power struggle to get the sides moving
d)because they read twitter and facebook

and then there come a whole different other scenarios, before a distant letter brings us to
n) because it is good for the sport, the teams, the riders, the competition.

That is why I say enforcing those rules even more, brings us further into a Orwellian scenario (we are already close, with riders being prisoners of the fans/anti-doping), where we “obey the rules, because they are the rules, because they are the rules, because they are the rules and anyway, if you don’t obey, you are an enemy of the people”. It is the wrong discussion at the wrong time for me.

Rules are only enforcable, if they are perceived as fair and having a sense. Then people won’t like them, but they will understand, that they are needed. Otherwise you will get war in the peloton.

(There was an excellent article/interview in L’Èquipe with Jean Wauthier , who shone a light on the inner incompetence and unsuitability of the uci. He said among other things, that not one of them knew how a bike functioned and that he had warned them of motors in bikes, but they didnt’ care. Needless to say, that (since 2010 I think?)he is no longer working for them, because, well, you know, competence is not liked there much.). And that are the people whose rules you (not you personally) want to enforce? Hm.

CA March 3, 2017 at 5:38 pm

Anon – your argument makes sense, and I think the next logical step is to:

Replace the UCI with a real rules enforcement set of officials to oversee the races. The UCI is broken and has its fingers in too many pies, and none of the pies tastes good at all! The UCI has proven it is unable to legitimately oversee our sport.

Then, make some real rules and enforce them properly. And get all the racers to ride the course as it was designed – no more smooth cart paths when the section is a cobbled section!!!!!

ocaz March 3, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Rules are only good if they’re properly enforced and consequences for breaking them are significant. Riders will weigh it up in their mind and take the small hit. So as others have said it either has to be a punishment that hits them harder either in the pocket or that impact their placing in the race with penalties.

The littering is a big bug bearer for me as it sets a bad example to cyclists to do as the pros do, especially when you’re riding in countryside and you see gel wrappers tossed to side of the road.

In terms of riding cobbles, race organisers could do more by putting down cones, hay bales or barriers to stop them using paths instead of cobbles. I guess it comes down to logistics and whether they can be bothered with that sort of infrastructure been put out and taken away after race.

Persistent offenders could be banned with some sort of warning system like in football where 5 yellows equals a one game ban for example.

Shawn March 3, 2017 at 2:02 pm

“Proportionality matters, the fines need to signal the price to be paid and signal a deterrent.”

Yes, the current fines are not an effective deterrent but let’s not confuse this issue with proportionality. A proportionate punishment imposes a penalty that fits the harm done. The proportionality of a punishment also has nothing to do with how easily one can manage to pay the penalty. The underlying question is whether there is consensus in the professional cycling ‘world’ about the severity of the wrong committed by riders avoiding the cobbles. If such a consensus is lacking (and that’s my guess), then it is very difficult to govern such matters–whether you’re the UCI or a state government.

Anonymous March 3, 2017 at 2:51 pm

It’s a shame that you’ve written an almost identikit article for a couple of years now and still the situation is the same.

The organisers know the roads and how the racers will race. They also know that everything is immediately scrutinised on social media these days. So why not put up a crash barrier or something to keep the riders on the road.

(Personally I really don’t care – and I think it’s cool that the riders use the best surface available, of course they will … but if it’s really a problem then the organisers should prevent it from happening in the first place.)

tj March 3, 2017 at 3:02 pm

How about if you get caught on the footpath, drafting littering , in addition to a fine, your team has to start the next race of the same category with one less rider. It would stop pretty quick if an offence in Tour of Flanders reduced your team to 7 for Paris Roubaix. There is no point in suspending the rider themselves, they would just take that race their schedule and substitute another.

johnnieForeigner March 3, 2017 at 7:41 pm

Stating rules are one aspect
Lack of consistency in enforcing them is another
Lack of consistency in fines where they are broken yet another

Maybe direction on:Are certain rules a ‘suggestion: a mini fine, to be used as a joker card to play or not. No race director enforcement – but small fines afterwards
Or are they consistently enforced – for all groups. Big fines. time penalty or not

Its a behavioural fork in the road of cycling as i see it

Pre race last weekend there were comments from UCI (again) on this one rule – the sidewalk/non cobbles. During the race the enforcement was piece meal at best. Seems down to the individual in each car/moto and if they care enough/ can be bothered to “king Kanute” the point:

On TV we see the race director hanging out the white Volvo berating one group to get back on the road and off the path – temporary success.

@ 40K to go TV showed the chase group prevented from riding the left side pavement – motos riding and physically pushing then into the road. The 5 man break only moments earlier were riding on that exact kerb edge/pavement with no such intervention.

On the front of a chasing pack, sky ride (Rowe?) kept on the cobbles, Quick Step dove to the pavement. Dude shrugs, head shake, and eventually gives up & joins on the side pavement as 3rd wheel.

the Great Beard March 3, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Unlike many other sports, it would appear nigh on impossible to issue a yellow card or equivalent during a road race. I certainly don’t think that using the pavement warrants a DQ from the race so what else can be done?

Perhaps a ‘real time’ time penalty where the group/rider involved has to soft peddle for 30 secs? That certainly has the potential to change the outcome of the race.

Goonie March 4, 2017 at 12:39 am

In cricket, fines are expressed in a percentage of a player’s “match fee” (the amount they’re paid to play that particular game).

Something along those lines (perhaps by team rather than by individual) might be appropriate so that a Conti team in a .2 race isn’t hit with a fine that would be a sufficient deterrent to Sky or BMC at the Tour.

Larry T March 6, 2017 at 1:12 am

I can’t see monetary penalties being much of a deterrent unless they get so large the result ends up being appeals taken to CAS, etc. I REALLY would hate to see F1’s “Action under scrutiny by race stewards” get into play here, with time penalties, colored cards, etc. making what’s going on more challenging to understand instead of less and worse, the podium ceremony either delayed or held with the incorrect riders being feted.
DQ’s are (or should be) pretty instant and (should) send a strong message to curb bad behavior when it comes to cutting the course, getting a tow (as with today’s P-N, though I watched the thing and didn’t really think it was so bad, especially since Bardet crashed and was rather chewed up and it wasn’t like his team car towed him to the front and on to victory) illegal feeding, etc.
Regarding littering, this is something else as nobody gets an advantage tossing their panino wrappings in the non-designated zone. I don’t think “fixing” that problem will truly keep the punters from littering as self-centered pricks will always be self-centered pricks.

J Evans March 6, 2017 at 8:51 am

I don’t know why the riders don’t make a bit more effort with the littering – don’t do it in that beautiful, desolate spot, wait until there’s a fan around and throw it at them (or even into someone’s garden would be better).

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