Having a Fine Time on the Tour

Every evening the Tour publishes an official bulletin with the results and other technical information including a note of who was fined during the day with the crimes and punishments listed.

For example yesterday Sylvain Chavanel was fined 100 Swiss Francs for ravitaillement portant atteinte à l’image du cyclisme or “feeding that damages the image of cycling.”

Chavanel presumably he didn’t order red wine with fish nor chew with his mouth open. Instead it’s more likely he was caught taking a “sticky bottle” because his OPQS team DS Wilfried Peeters was also fined 100 francs. But it’s a perfect example  of the kind of fine levied:

  • the sum is significant but inconsequential during a race
  • the justification for the fine deploys an opaque bureaucratic language
  • most fines are for small mistakes

A sticky bottle?
This is the practice where a rider gets a waterbottle from the team car and as the team manager passes it up, the rider holds on – as if it’s sticky – whilst the car accelerates to give the rider an illegal boost. A bidon collé is one of the few terms to be mentioned out loud in the evening dispatches but often the fines are a collection of polite euphemisms. “Inappropriate conduct in public” might sound wide-ranging but it almost always means a rider urinating in public. Each stage is so long that riders have to stop for a leak but picking the right place is not easy given the large crowds.

The race is French but the rules of the sport are set by the UCI and so are the fines. The UCI is based in Switzerland and therefore it collects money in Swiss Francs (CHF). One thing to note in the aftermath of the Ted King abdication is that the race itself isn’t behind the decision, instead there’s a jury of UCI commissaires tasked with upholding the rules. This year’s jury is presided by Spain’s Vicente Tortajada Villarroya.

Fortunately there’s a list of offences and fixed tariffs. The other day Tony Martin was fined CHF 2,000 for having world champion logos on his time trial bike. He might be the reigning world time trial champion but the UCI has trademarked the rainbow stripes and is increasingly active in guarding this, at least at big races. Note the sum was equal to the fine for Orica-Greenedge’s finish line gate crash.

You can find the full list buried in the rules section of the UCI website and it includes gems like “Theft of food, drink or any other goods during the race” which brings a CHF1,000 fine. Interestingly “carrying a glass object” brings a CHF50 penalty, righly so because if you crash it could be dangerous. But try to get rid of it and “discarding a glass object” brings a CHF100 fine and elimination from the race. Perhaps there’s an exemption if you put the glass in a recycling bin?

There are plenty more offences, going from the big ones like violence or dangerous riding down to the more daily mistakes of ignoring a commissaire’s instructions, sticky bottles and so on.

The Price to Pay
It might sound petty but surely the sport needs rules and a system to enforce them? The trouble here is that the fines are light and given the regularity with which they’re levied, seem to have little deterrent effect.

In practice Teams tend to account for these by netting them off against prize money and have a month to pay the fine, it’s all admin with no little consequence on the rider. It’s also a matter of being caught. Commissaires travel in red Skoda cars and on motorbikes too but they can’t be everywhere. So only those who get caught get fined and plenty more can go on each day.

Appeals can be brought but only for incidents where the fine exceeds CHF200. It’s not all cash either, riders can get hit with points losses for the green jersey competition and time penalties too, for example if they draft behind a team car.

Big Money
Should you think all this is trivial, the UCI’s annual report for 2011 – the last set of published figures – show it raised a total of CHF546,000 in fines, a sum equivalent to €450,000 or $575,000 although this includes anti-doping fines, and the actual amount raised from race fines is one third of the funds raised. But not all the money goes to the UCI, some penalties are paid to the national federation of the race in question (in the Tour, the French cycling federation) and in other cases to the licence holder’s national federation; but the others go to the UCI.

In context this sum is about 3% of the UCI’s annual income, a sum not to be dismissed at given its so-far failed attempts to raise money with new ventures like Chinese race promotion.

46 thoughts on “Having a Fine Time on the Tour”

  1. Do any manufactures agree to pay fines up front if riders will wear or use their products during the Tour that aren’t within the regulations ? Any examples that stick out in your mind?

      • Don’t tell the UCI, but I have a Specialized I bought in 2010 with the world champion stripes on it. In my defense, they aren’t very prominent…

    • Probably because for being TTT world champions the team doesn’t get rainbow jerseys, instead they get a logo on their normal jerseys which I think they can wear all year round.

      For the TTT there is no individual world champion so Martin couldn’t wear his rainbow jersey and I assume the bike will fall under that ruling.

  2. Tortajada, if I’m not mistaken, also headed the jury that fined and ejected Chris Froome from the 2010 Giro d’Italia for clinging to a motorbike on the Mortirolo.

  3. Is this bulletin or the daily medical report available somewhere on the Tour web site (www.letour.fr)? I have looked but could not find them.

  4. Are these official bulletins available for the public or are they released only to the press? I think they are telling a lot about the race that we can’t see at TV. I remember last year you published in the rest day the prize money each team earned until then, but I was not able to find such things in the public area of letour.fr.

  5. So they accrue in fines the total amount that the winner of the whole Tour gets?

    Only I guess the ASO pays the winner, while the UCI gains the fines?

    Is the number of fines levied so far consistent with the last few years, or has it increased?

  6. Isnt it a rule that all members of a team have to have the same kit/sponsors? How do cannondale get away with “snake”, “bull”, chameleon on the shorts. Or are they just paying a fine a la Cippolini as the cost of advertising?

      • Gee, by that logic, having a rider’s name on a jersey would be illegal, or riding in a national champion’s colors. Use a little common sense.

        • Bigwagon, the uci rules and common sense are rarely used in the same sentence. Not that long ago it was a limit of 3 sponsors on the jersey. Only one could be an “extra sportif” ie not a bike industry sponsor. Back in the late ’80s the NCL ( a failed breakaway Pro league in North America made a big deal of putting riders names on the jersies, something the UCI didn’t allow at the time.
          To bring the discussion back up to date, the title sponsor of a team is limited to 2 names although radioshack/ leopard trek sidestepped that one by creating “leopard trek” as a new entity to sponsor the team.
          So my question remains, what does the rulebook say that stop every rider on a team having a different display /prominence of the team sponsors? Is there a fine if the jerseys don’t match? And if so, is it analogous to the situation with super mario in his muscle suit? ie worth it for the advertising value?
          The national champion jersey is covered by the rules, you have to wear it. Downhill racers have been fined in the last year or so for not wearing a national champion jersey in favour of a team kit.
          It is well known that certain riders only get a contract if they bring a sponsor with them, the Danilo Deluca fiasco this year at the Giro being the most recent. There are many more examples of sponsors requesting/ requiring certain riders on a team. Could they alter the kit so their guy has the patron’s logo more prominent on their home boy?

          • And for the record, i think the snake bull chameleon thing was a brilliant idea! And why don’t all teams have the riders names on the jerseys? I hate waiting for Null and Void on NBC to get it right

      • The glass fines are really strange as we have another article which explicitly forbids glass containers:
        1.2.083 Carrying and using glass containers shall be forbidden during competitions.
        So basically it should be grounds for disqualification from the race if “Carrying and using glass containers…”
        It isn’t always easy to apply these regulations, trust me…

        • Hey – they have to eject them if they use glass, even if it is all part of the fun. Rules are rules for this race jury, you know!

  7. Ok, Mark Cavendish suffered a crash on stage 6 with about 35km to go and in getting back to the peleton was seeen to be taking advantage of his teams car and other teams cars too to get back to the front of the race .
    How come I have not read that he has been fined for slipstreaming.
    It looked that maybe he slipstreamed behind cars for at least 10km.

    • Cav was definitely slipstreaming the team cars as he rejoined the peleton but commissaires generally turn a blind eye to this when a rider is chasing the pack following a crash. I think as long as he keeps moving forwards then they are unlikely to penalise him – if he sat drafting behind a car to the end of the stage then he would undoubtedly be hearing from them.

  8. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this year’s Tour supposed to be “greener” than ever before? And that includes frowning upon littering outside the designated zones? Chavaunel was possibly found guilty of an particularly offensive manner of dicarding energy bar wraps on the roadside?

    • What do you mean by ‘fix’ the outcome? Surely that is the whole point of the Tour de France and team tactics. That is why one of the team is assigned as the hope of the team, or indeed one for each of the team’s different purposes within the categories awarded, and this can change due to injury etc ..I feel like I must be missing the point of the comment…

  9. The fine for Tony Martin is ridiculous. So despite being world TT champ he needs a different bike for TTTs and presumably a compliant spare bike ‘just in case’.

    Geraint Thomas summed it up nicely on Twitter:
    >So Tony Martin got fined for world champ stripes on his bike yesterday?? What about @PhilippeGilbert tattoo?? #offwithhisleg 😉

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