The Rules of the Road Race

Can you ride on a bike path during a race? Who is to blame if riders stack up on sharp corner in the final metres of a race? Is it ok to cross a level-crossing if the gates are still open?

Some of the rules have changed for 2016 and for all the rest it’s impossible to remember all the UCI rules, they take enough enough space on a hard drive yet alone your own memory. What’s a rider to do?

Well these rules cover everything from BMX and frame design to media accreditation or World Tour team licence applications, the kind of things that no racer need worry about. So what in-race rules are there to remember if you’ve got a number on your back and your feet clipped into the pedals? Here’s a handy list of do’s and don’ts for racers…

Chapter 1
1.1.002: remember to apply for a valid racing licence in January
1.1.042: you need your team’s permission to enter a local race solo
1.2.019: don’t enter a forbidden or unsanctioned race, check if you want to ride a gran fondo
1.2.022: if you’re suspended, you’re not allowed to enter zones at races closed to the public
1.2.030: no betting on the sport
1.2.047: if you start a race it is assumed you read the roadbook and race manual and accept any additional race rules contained within
1.2.063: if the race is unsafe then complain to the organiser as the UCI is not responsible for race safety
1.2.064: study the route before the race as you are expected to know it. You cannot take short cuts
1.2.064: you can use a cycle path or pedestrian track by the road if it’s safe to do so
1.2.079: don’t be violent or take actions to harm the image of the sport whether you’re at a race or at home
1.2.080: be sporting and fair
1.2.081: you can share the work in a breakaway but cannot collude to fix the result of a race
1.2.082: you shall be held responsible for the accidents you cause
1.2.083: don’t carry glass containers
1.2.107: the time gap between groups is measured between the back wheel of the first group and the front wheel of the second group
1.2.108: complete the course under your own steam, you can’t accept pushes from the crowds nor travel in a team car, even for one metre

You may walk or run during the race

1.2.109: you can cross the finish line on foot as long as you have your bike with you
1.2.112: if you win a prize or an award you must attend the podium ceremony
1.2.113: wear your team race kit on the podium
1.3.001: have a safe bike that meets the UCI rules
1.3.026: wear shorts and shorts sleeves, no sleeveless tops allowed
1.3.030: your rain jacket has to be transparent or matching the team kit
1.3.031: wear a helmet
1.3.033: you can’t wear non-essential items for performance gains like compression socks
1.3.034: wear only your approved team kit in a race
1.3.054: if you have a leader’s jersey you may wear matching shorts

Chris Froome
On the eve of the race Chris Froome gets measured up for a custom skinsuit by Tour sponsors Le Coq Sportif in case he takes yellow in the 2014 Tour de France

1.3.055: if you have a leader’s jersey and the race doesn’t provide a skinsuit for a TT you may wear your own team-issue kit
1.3.080: remove your race number if you drop out of a race

Chapter 2
2.2.008: unless the event bears your name you must seek UCI approval before riding a gran fondo
2.2.010bis: you can be excluded from a race if the organiser doesn’t like you but have the right to a hearing
2.2.018: the UCI is not responsible for defects in the course or accidents that may occur
2.2.024: race radios are can be used in all WorldTour, .HC and .1 races for men and women
2.2.025: don’t litter, use the waste zones if provided
2.2.026: wear two race numbers for a road race, one is fine for a time trial
2.2.027: have your number on your bike too
2.2.030: if you’ve quit the race don’t cross the finish line. Use the broom wagon unless you’re ill or injured
2.3.009: show up in time for the race and be sure sign on or you may not be allowed to start
2.3.012: you can share a bottle or food with someone from another team but don’t give them a wheel or your bike
2.3.014: if you’re lapped on a finishing circuit you can carry on but don’t interfere with the race

Manuel Quinziato
The no feeding rule can be waived on the final climb of a hot day

2.3.027: normally you can’t take food on climbs and descents, nor in the first 50km nor the last 20km
2.3.029: you’re only allowed mechanical help from your team, the neutral service or the broom wagon
2.3.030: in the event of a mechanical, don’t hang on to the team car but stop by the side of the road

New for 2016 is the rule saying you cannot cross if the lights flash or bells sound

2.3.034: stop at a closed level crossing and the same if the lights flash or bells sound
2.3.036: sprint straight and don’t endanger others
2.3.039: the time cut is normally 8% of the winner’s time but may vary
2.3.040: if you finish in a group you’ll all be credited with the same time
2.6.018: if you’re leading a jersey competition in a stage race you should wear the jersey
2.6.026: if you drop out of a stage race normally you can’t resume racing elsewhere until that stage race is over
2.6.027: the three kilometre rule usually applies with three kilometres to go

That’s it, follow these summary guidelines and you’re good to go. Of course there are some unmentioned ones like you may draft another rider and other obvious rules like don’t dope should go without saying. The ones above should help anyone avoid time penalties and fines.

Ian Stannard
You can now take the high road or the low road

You’ll note the changes with race radios allowed and the revision for 2016 that once again allows riders to use paths by the road in races as long as it’s not dangerous, an ambiguous rule. Also the level crossing doesn’t have to be closed, it’s enough for the lights to flash and alarm to sound for the crossing to be considered closed. Finally the onus is on the race organiser to ensure a safe course and riders to check out the route and already this season accidents have occurred because this didn’t happen.

If you want the main rules they are in Part I and Part II of the rulebook on the UCI’s regulations page. Be sure to download the latest version if you rely on them.


83 thoughts on “The Rules of the Road Race”

  1. I understand that rules are only made to be broken. But it would be good to see Rule 1.3.030 applied to the Pros on a regular basis !

    Even lowly I have rain wear that matches my team kit.

  2. 2 things:

    1. Rule 1.3.054 does NOT apply to Pierre Rolland.

    2. The level crossing thing won’t work. What if you’re too close to stop when the ligghts start flashing? Sure, in that situation you’d surely be excused, but what if you just say you felt like you didn’t have time? And what if you’re at the front of a big group and you’re worried that if you stop, the group will carry on going, smash into the back of you and throw you onto the tracks? I know I wouldn’t stop if I was at the front of the group when the lights start flashing.

    • The list above is merely a summary to understand the rules and the actual rule on level crossings is fuller and its interpretation more flexible. The idea is that follow the basics above and there won’t be a fine, time penalty or disqualification.

      • Also, this is added to the level crossing rule:
        4. If a group of riders is split into two groups following the closure of a level
        crossing, the first group will be slowed down or stopped in order to allow the
        delayed riders to return to the first group;

  3. I was only puzzled by no compression socks (Rule 1.3.033). Why would these be banned? What other ‘non-essentials’ does this rule cover?

  4. Non essential kit; what about those bidon jerseys which were employed last year? These can hardly be classed as essential. There’s tonnes of stuff in here which is totally questionable, I could wear leg warmers that aim to promote recovery through compression but not compression socks? Seems odd.

  5. “you can accept pushes from the crowds”? Really, I didn’t know that. Riders always seems to discourage fans from doing that – is that out of safety concerns?

    “or travel one metre in a team car”, why would someone do that?

    • Riders are regularly fined for this. The teams just pay. Perhaps the cost needs to be raised. A zero on the end of the fine or a time penalty might concentrate minds. I can’t think of a valid excuse to sling waste in the countryside instead of putting it in your pocket.

      • The habit of slinging out a 1 oz gel into the weeds right before a flat sprint finish is really absurd. It’s not going to matter in the results.

      • They need to change it to taking time off the leading rider of the team.

        The littering by the pros is one of the worst aspects of the sport. Possibly worse than doping in terms of example. Just go down a road after a sportive to see some of the consequences of the MAMILs living their “I could have been a pro” dreams.

      • I love watching a rider toss a bottle to an appreciative fan from 50 meters away and have it land at their feet. To me it shows that riders realize we are there supporting their athletic endeavors and this is just a small token. My son, standing on an isolated section of Colle di Finestre, got a Nippo Vini Fantini and Sky bottle dropped right in front of him. Wonderful mementos of the day.

    • Agreed – why don’t they just put the wrapper in their pockets? it’s not like they have spare tubes or wallets or other things stuck in their pockets!

      Cycling should be one of the leaders in pushing for greener policies… but every year 200 cyclists spend 30 days in July throwing wrappers all over France…

  6. Total agree with DMC on rule 2.2.025, bit of a bugbear for me with the wrappers and throwing bidons left right and centre, which in some cases is probably a nice souvenir for a road side fan but when it tumbles down a ravine or hillside?

    Doesn’t promote cycling in a positive light riding through beautiful locations dropping litter and harms the image of cycling which you could argue breaking rule 1.2.079 too. I’d like it to be a bigger fine rather than pocket change, meaning it is not much of deterrent when your team is picking up the bill.

    Living in Yorkshire and it always annoys and saddens me cycling through the dales and seeing used gel wrappers by the side of the road. If your pocket was big enough to hold it when it was full, then it’s big enough to hold the used wrapper. Maybe if the pros set a better example?

  7. Didn’t know the bike paths and sidewalks were allowed again. Well, that means the organizers will just have to rent a few extra fences here and there…

    • Not that we’ll ever have such a race in the anti-cycling state of NSW, Australia, but here it’s illegal for anyone over 12 years of age to ride a bicycle on a footpath.

      • Hard to believe Alex, but you make NSW, Australia sound like a worse place to ride a bicycle than the US of A! And not-so-long ago I was being attacked for describing OZ as not a “proper cycling country”?

  8. Any chance of an article on the unwritten rules? For example not attacking the leader when they’ve a mechanical, background and examples of them been broken?

    Either way keep up the good work 🙂

  9. don’t enter a forbidden or unsanctioned race,

    In theory, this applies to all UCI federation license holders. The last word from Cookson on the matter was the rule was not to be enforced until it was revisited. USA Cycling tried to enforce this rule for mountain bike races, then blamed the UCI for requiring enforcement. No other national federation enforced the rule.

    Also it’s worth mentioning, once one rises beyond National elite, the ranks of races they can enter is quite narrow such that showing up at the local community-level road race is technically forbidden.

  10. ” The Inner Ring March 2, 2016 at 5:13 pm
    I cannot write down the unwritten rules”

    …and if Inrng cannot write it, it cannot be writ…

  11. Just to clarify Inner Ring, in the Omloop on Saturday –
    some of the breakaway had a munchie at about 19.5km from home, so OK?
    And, as mad as it sounds, it did look like Luke Rowe was beckoning Gougeard for a bidon at about 9.5km out; would it have been OK for him to take it and drink?

    • Yes – you can eat or drink inside the final 20km. You just can’t take food from a car or bystander on the road inside 20km to go. That’s why Rowe was asking Gougeard for a drink instead of going back to the car.

      • Thanks.
        I was thinking the time penalty that Froome suffered for the gel, but that was due to Porte going back to a team car for it.

    • There can be situations where we allow for ravitaillement inside the 20k marker. For some races -Belgian spring classics with pavés – it can be extremely difficult for the team car to come to their riders. Especially if they are in a breakaway. These roads are quite narrow and it can be hard to navigate a car past a bunch to move forward.
      So riderss in a breakaway will have some supplies from the neutral but they normally don’t carry anything to eat. So if his car arrives inside the 20k, I could be persuaded to allow for feeding; I have been known to do that.

      Note, btw, that you also cannot talk to your rider inside the 10k. In these radiodays, it doesn’t matter in top races but in smaller races; Juniors, they will have to negotiate the tactics inside 10k by themselves.

  12. Kind of makes one wonder about all these rules that are never or rarely enforced. Do they create disregard for the important rules banning doping (or motorized bicycles) especially when the anti-doping rules seem selectively enforced as well?
    A surprise to me was that UCI takes no responsibility for the safety of the courses. I would think a sanctioning body would (and should) be very concerned about the safety of race courses and venues with plenty of rules against putting the final, high-speed 90 degree turn before the finish smack in the middle of a place with a speed bump or having steel pipes sticking out of the road on the finish straight with nothing more than safety cones thrown over them. The riders union should make sure some of their dues funds an ex-pro or some other experienced person to ride over the entire course well before the race starts in order to notify the organizers of dangers that need to be eliminated. The race doesn’t start until the union safety inspector signs off on the whole thing.

    • @Larry, we (the UCI representative) rarely arrive at the scene in time to do an inspection. We reely on the organiser to ensure and enforce safety.
      Of course we emphasise (emphasize?) the subject during meetings with police, marshalls etc. but that is about all, we can do. During the race, the race director will have the responsibility.
      If an incident occurs, rest assured it goes in the report and is discussed during debriefing.
      For the MTB-discipline the UCI assigns a technical delegate, perhaps they should pick up on that for the road too.

      • If you don’t mind me saying, that is a terrible excuse. Glad to know that if someone dies or is seriously injured it “gets recorded”

        Translation: it costs too much money and there’s a risk of litigation to the UCI

        • UHJ is just upholding the current rules. Presumably the more serious the incident, the more serious the repercussions.

          As the rules above (and even more so in the UCI rulebook) make clear, the UCI is steering well clear of approving race routes. If it did certify the safety of race finishes it would be a legal festival, one fan’s quaint race through a medieval European town would be a safety inspector’s risk bonanza. In many ways we know a safe finish from a dangerous one when we see it, and there should be common sense rather than rules specifying the angle of corners in the final kilometre or the width of the road.

          • I note that the UCI has just issued a press release about the various organisers who want to hold a WT race. Do you know whether safety is one of the criteria they take into account when deciding what status to award a race?

        • Thanks, INRNG.
          @Charles, I did not intent it as an excuse merely as an explanation on how the procedures work.
          As INRNG says, the more serious the incident, the more problems for the organiser.
          But having the UCI take the responsibility is simply not possible nor can they certify races. To “certify” or take responsibility, you have to be the organiser. The one closest to the scene during build up to the event.
          The UCI doesn’t either take responsibility for the local legislation concerning traffic etc. but these also apply for more races than you see in the telly.
          We really do our best – as does the organisers – to better and improve safety. Nobody wants a report that says they did a bad job.

          • @Nick,
            I was actually considering adding something like that to my previous post but I decided not to because I really don’t know. But I would imagine so, yes, most definately.
            I know that we have an organiser’s bible, some +400 pages thick crammed with good advice and suggestions on how to set up a race and with special emphasis on safety.

          • I’m afraid I still find the UCI position primarily one of washing their hands of the responsibility of safety under the guise of ‘we’ve told the race organiser they should make the race safe and if they don’t follow our rules what can we do?’

            I don’t pretend to have the answers but, as Larry T suggests, I do feel the UCI could provide a dedicated rep to work with the race organiser and be signing off on key decisions/milestones from the inception of the planning.

            Why this doesn’t happen is, I feel, very much a case of money (who’s going to pay for it) and the possibility of getting ensnared into litigation regarding liability should something go wrong. The UCI should have the power to cancel/delay any race if standards aren’t met but they don’t want this power because it then means they accept ultimate responsibility.

            Perhaps someone could explain that actual financial/other repercussions related to last years Tour of the Basque Country stage where Peter Stetina suffered his horror crash? Does the rider/team sue the race organiser? How does the UCI get involved when there’s a serious incident like this other than producing a race debrief report and filing it away in a cabinet labelled ‘IMPORTANT’?

          • @UHJ, thanks. In my view it is a little disingenuous of the UCI to say they have no responsibility for the certification of races, if at the same time they are making some of them compulsory by awarding them a particular status. It would be interesting to see if any race is downgraded in status because of previous concerns. I know the women’s Giro Toscana was downgraded from .HC to .2 after motor traffic was allowed onto the course during the 2013 race, but I don’t know whether that was *because* of the safety problems.

          • @Charles – what type of repercussions are possible regarding Peter Stetina’s crash last year? Specifically, what are you looking for?

            It would be extremely difficult to seek financial penalties for these incidents. These races cover thousands of kilometres through medieval-age European cities with infinitesimal crashing risks. If cycling starts suing race organisers for these errors, races will disappear – they currently don’t make very much money and any penalties will come from race organisers’ pockets.

            People might think that insurance policies can cover these risks. But, I strongly suspect that no commercial insurance policy would cover races because of the significant payout risk.

            The only practical solution is for the UCI to make note of this organiser’s mistake, make a recommendation moving forward, and if the organiser continues to ignore these areas, then downgrade the race, or revoke the license.

          • The entire concept of racing a bike at 50kph wearing nothing but lycra on some of your skin beside 200 others is inherently risky (and some would say ridiculous! haha) – modern law cannot comprehend a solution to reduce the risk or remove liability from the riders of this sport! It’s absolutely impossible.

            On the other side of the coin these riders are the toughest athletes on the planet, and take pride taking risks and ability to overcome extreme conditions. They don’t blame others for crashes (usually) and love being the toughest athletes on the planet! Would a Premier League player finish a match with a broken collarbone or get up off the tarmac after losing all their skin to keep racing?!? Most of the time Premier League players whine about bumping into others – it’s pathetic, but cyclists don’t care, they suffer and have fun doing it!

          • @Nick
            While I accept there are inherent risks in cycle racing (and I take them myself at an amateur level) I think it’s important to draw a distinction between crashing due to a puncture and crashing due to a metal pole being left exposed on the course the other side of a blind bend in the final 500 meters of a circuit.

            *I’m* not after anything myself as I didn’t break my leg cycling into a metal pole at 60kph but I’d expect there to be some consequence to some organisation as a result of such gross negligence.

            If someone (employee or visitor) suffered a broken leg in a commercial office environment as a result of a negligent approach to the safety, the employee or visitor could well have cause to sue. If these guys are professional I think they deserve the same respect and standards to be applied.

            I’m not arguing for sanitised racing, or for a culture of litigation, just for someone to take some responsibility. Is the Tour of the Basque country running this year? Was the organisation fined? Did any individual lose their job?

            It’s a perverse kind of logic that justifies horrific injuries as proof of how great the sport and it’s competitors are.

          • That’s why I suggested someone from the pro riders union survey the course. Someone who answers only to the union members. If he misses something egregious and someone gets hurt he gets canned and replaced by a better guy. While pro cycling is certainly dangerous and part of the appeal may be watching riders going 100 kph dressed in spandex with little more than a styro beer cooler on their head, we don’t need to ask them to ride through rings of fire and there’s NO reason someone shouldn’t be taking a look at these courses to avoid ridiculous situations like those metal poles…purely a case of head-up-a__ if you ask me.

          • I understand the need to appoint blame.

            My question to you Larry – if you were the guy appointed to approve the course every day wouldn’t you be glad to get canned from this job? It’s an impossible job, plus you’d be doing it knowing that you’ll take full blame if some road furniture gets in the way or something. Would you do it? And how much would you charge for taking full responsibility over the course?

          • @Charles – I agree this is a tough situation. It was a brutal crash and definitely shouldn’t have happened. However, once again, your need to penalise someone raises way more questions than are possible to answer.

            Under what specific framework do you impose penalties? Who specifically do you blame? How can you financially blame a race that almost stopped for financial reasons 3 years ago? The race itself likely doesn’t make any money, and had to be saved a the 11th hour by a local bank a few years back. Will you sue the local bank? We can’t sue sponsors – that would kill the sport.

            Do you see where this is going? It’s impossible to impose financial penalties on someone for this.

            Next, how do you assume that the rider had no blame in the crash and therefore wasn’t at all liable for the accident. The debate/case would be endless. Where was Peter Stetina positioned in the group? Why didn’t he see the cone? Did others hit the cone too? If it was so dangerous why didn’t others hit it? Why didn’t other riders pass the message back that there was a post on the right side? This is the tip of the iceberg.

            It’s really unfortunate, but there’s no way to penalise anyone for this.

          • @Charles – haha, sorry I know. Not a lawyer, tax accountant, just as boring and spend all day with tax law.

            Very thankful to have Inrng’s blog to take my mind off numbers and tax.

      • Thanks for that response. I would think surely with the incidents in the recent past the UCI can see the need for a technical delegate to be responsible for road course safety. Of course the crew of the organizers would have to be at-the-ready to remedy any issues discovered by the delegate well before the arrival of the race, but this seems a small task when we’re talking about some of the egregious situations with the steel posts or totally unmarked or guarded traffic “islands/medians” and the injuries and negative effects on the racing outcome we have seen recently.

        • You’re welcome, Larry.
          Yes, a technical delegate could be one way to improve – and it’s a function ready to copy from the MTB-scene.
          The organisers are always ready to move if we demand so, they often go a very long way to satisfy the UCI on any issue that may arise; safety, food, lodging etc.
          The traffic furniture situation is a difficult thing to manage but it is wholly in the hands of the organiser. These things seem to multiply exponentially every year, unfortunately. But they are fixed and could be secured for rider safety.
          Note also that all obstacles shall be marked in the technical guide route description and during team managers meeting, the organiser regularly mentions the last minutes changes and dangerous points. And during the race, the race director will use radio tour to announce any upcoming obstacles; ambulances, farming machines etc. that could not be forseen in advance.

          • Thanks for the insights on how these things work. I sometimes think that if you proposed bike racing from scratch right now rather than taking advantage of the long history of competition using public roads, it would probably be declared impossible – too dangerous.
            I hope these safety issues can be addressed so the riders don’t have to go on strike in protest or road cycling doesn’t end up suffering the same fate as the Targa Florio or Mille Miglia, events that used to be real races using the public roads, but were discontinued or morphed into merely vintage car rallies due to safety concerns.

          • From a H&S perspective, the most common causes of workplace (and in the home) accidents are ‘slips, trips, and falls’.
            Reconcile this with a bicycle race!

    • Great discussion, and thanks to UHJ for giving feedback of the current situation.

      @Charles – I do argue that it’s impossible to fully certify a road race circuit. Racers all assume some level of risk when riding through the countryside, medieval towns, mountain descents, etc. It’s impossible to completely reduce the risk of major crashes (except in very glaringly bad situations, such as at the sprint finishes). UHJ is not making an excuse, simply explaining their position.

  13. 2.2.010bis: you can be excluded from a race if the organiser doesn’t like you but have the right to a hearing.

    Has this happened recently?

    Totally agree about litter and cycling not being a match.

    • There were whispers Davide Rebellin was asked not to ride last year’s Giro. Concrete examples are the Tour de France blocking Danilo Di Luca but it’s risky grounds, a returning doper has served their ban so can’t pay a second price on top. There has to be a good reason to actually exclude someone.

  14. 1.2.063: if the race is unsafe then complain to the organiser as the UCI is not responsible for race safety
    2.2.018: the UCI is not responsible for defects in the course or accidents that may occur

    are these new rules?
    interesting in context of all the calls for the UCI to do something about course safety – they have, however rather than putting safety requirements in the race licensing they’ve absolved themselves of all responsibility – don’t complain to us!

  15. Rule 1.2.030 is interesting, because if taken literally it means anybody with a UCI licence is not permitted to place a bet on any cycling event anywhere in the world.

    Sports betting is legal and easily accessible in most countries other than the USA, and bookies and betting exchanges offer odds on major professional cycling events (thankfully, online betting hasn’t reached the level of offering odds on local crits and kermesses AFAIK).

    I would be very surprised there aren’t plenty of amateurs with UCI licences having the occasional flutter on the Tour, for instance.

  16. 1.3.054: should read if you have a leader’s jersey you must wear black shorts.

    You look like a banana in yellow and a circus act in polka dots.

  17. I know they won’t, but it would be funny if the UCI wrote an open letter to Jim Ochowicz just saying “1.2.063: if the race is unsafe then complain to the organiser as the UCI is not responsible for race safety”

  18. 1.2.107: the time gap between groups is measured between the back wheel of the first group and the front wheel of the second group
    Really?? This never happens!

    • This has been simplified a little too far, I think.

      What this refers to is the splitting of groups. If the gap from the back of the front bike to the front of the next bike is more than one second (which at 50 km/h is 14 metres, or ~8 bike lengths) then they are counted as separate groups. That’s a much bigger gap than you would think from watching on TV.

      The time of the second group is measured with respect to the leader, so if the 90th rider leaves a one second gap in front of them they could well have a time gap around 20 seconds. This came back to bite Richie Porte at the Tour Down Under this year, on stage four he left just enough of a gap in front to get classified at 8 seconds behind the winner, then lost the GC by 9 seconds at the end of the week.

  19. What about rules for motorbikes and the number of vehicles accompanying the race? It seems to me that there are far too many unnecessary motorbikes zooting around. Surely they can cut down on this! It’s a bicycle race after all, not a convoy.

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