The 3km rule explained

In the event that a rider or riders suffer a fall, puncture or mechanical incident in the last 3 kilometres and such an incident is duly recognised, the rider or riders involved are credited with the same finishing time of the rider or riders they were with at the time of the incident.

They are attributed this ranking only upon crossing the finish line. If after a fall, it is impossible for a rider to cross the finish line, he is given the ranking of last in the stage and credited with the time of the rider or riders he was with at the time of the incident. For exceptional cases, the decision taken by the stewards committee is final.

This measure does not apply to:

• finishes of the 2nd stage, which is a team time trial and of the 20th stage which is an individual time trial;
• summit finishes of the 4th, 8th, 12th, 14th, 18th and 19th stages.

That’s Article 20 copied and pasted from the 2011 Tour de France rulebook. It means that following today’s Tour de France stage, both Alberto Contador and Samuel Sanchez lose time to the other race favourites.

While Andy Schleck, Ivan Basso and Bradley Wiggins finished in the group with Contador, they will not lose time. These three, and others, fell in a crash with around 2km to go. As such they will be “credited with the same finishing time of the rider or riders they were with at the time of the incident“, in other words they’ll get the same time as the group. Note it’s the group, Cadel Evans and Gilbert attacked out of the group so they gain time regardless of the rules.

Even if today had an uphill finish, it was not a proper uphill climb, the kind that creates big time gaps with riders coming in one by one. It was very much sprint and the organisers were right to ensure the rule applies.

Note that if you’re reading the published results soon after the race has finished, the times are taken by the electronic transponders fixed to the riders’ bikes. So you might have seen Shleck given the same time as Contador but this has to be corrected by the jury of race commissaires.

Safety first
Finally the rule exists for safety reasons. If riders know they could lose time in the closing moments of a race because someone brings them down, they might fight to stay up front, causing more pressure and thus increasing the chance of a crash.

Instead with the rule a ride can role past the 3km sign and know that so long as they keep on the wheel in front then they’re safe from being penalised for an accident. But if the sit up and let a gap appear, then of course they lose time. It is an artificial construct but I tend to think it works and 3km to go is probably about the right place.

Full results from today can be found at

18 thoughts on “The 3km rule explained”

  1. Top 78 all have the same time barring Phil G and Evans.

    Great finish, shame Phil and Paul couldn’t come up with the ruling at the time.

    Great response by getting this post up so quick.

  2. If a crash inside 3k affects not only the group that had the crash but also riders that were behind, wouldn’t the rule apply to those riders as well?

  3. Thanks for the info………….
    You were quicker to update than the news services.

    Let’s hope Cadel can turn this into an advantage.

  4. Any idea what happens to those who did not get help up by any crash, but got dropped towards the end? For example, Greipel pulled off after doing his work, and others just couldnt keep the pace.
    So far they seem to have treated them as if they got held up in the Wiggins/Schleck crash, but I dont know if this will change?

  5. This is why I love cycle racing, nothing can ever be taken for granted, flat stage, break caught,uphill power finish perfect for Gilbert et al……Then kaboom! I will miss tomorrows stage, I will be up in the air on the way to Ibiza, gonna check now for Spanish tv coverage, back on the 14th, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

  6. Bits of the internet (hello CN Forum, I’m looking at you) are in danger of spontaeously combusting at the events of today!

    Looks like we have an actual race on our hands.

  7. While the crash inside 3k may get those riders equal time with the ‘main’ group finishing on a flat stage finish, I’ll be curious to see which ‘main’ group they place Schleck et al into…the front group at 6 seconds was pretty small and certainly not indicative of the top 78 (referenced above) having the same stage time. Still, big plus for Horner in the RadioShack team GC battle and to Cuddles for showing some form early…hopefully not too early.

  8. I’ve watched it twice now and am still a bit confused. But the problem seems to be that the 2nd crash wasn’t caught on camera. They know who was in the lead group when it crossed the 3 km to go line.
    The 2nd crash (inside that distance) was not seen, so it wasn’t clear who got held up, who crashed off his bike and got back up, etc. So in answer to Marc’s question, I am just guessing that they give everyone of that original group the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Inner Ring can clarify this. By the time NBC aired its’ boiled-down coverage, even Phil Liggett had it fairly straight and explained it pretty well.

  9. INRNG, You’ve got Andy Schleck’s name wrong… twice.

    Its a bit puzzling that no one seem to notice it after more than a day – not very pro…

  10. Aleko: thanks! I was typing that very fast as everyone was asking what would happen to Contador, to those in the smaller crash and more. Didn’t check anything as I wanted to get the rule and info out. But it’s fixed now, thanks.

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