Give, Don’t Throw

The new rules against littering surprised some over the weekend, with the case of Michäel Schär being disqualified from the Ronde van Vlaanderen for throwing a bidon to waiting spectators provoking outrage online. However the incident with Kyle Murphy in the GP Miguel Indurain could be the real cause for concern.

It pays to read the rules as there’s still an easy way to gift bottles to spectators. The good news is that away from hiccups adjusting to the new rules over a weekend cycling is finally resolving its litter problem.

The surprise is it was a surprise given that the rule was announced over winter. The peloton knew and Schär seemed to realise his mistake as soon as he’d made it but it’s caused outrage on social media – whatever next? – but behind this ought to be a a good news story because the prize of the sport being seen to clean up, at least for one environmental angle, ought to be worth more than a few gifted bidons, more of which in a minute.

The new rules are a continuation of policy and nothing to do with Covid. ASO started with waste zones a decade ago, the UCI formalised with dedicated waste zones rules for 2015 but they lacked both carrot and stick: not enough zones, not enough penalties so riders kept littering, only millions were watching on TV and the image looked terrible.

The danger here is to confuse one weekend’s adjustment and accompanying noise with the rule being quietly accepted by most overnight. The peloton adapted well, aided the obligatory deployment of regular waste zones by organisers. You could see the difference watching the Tour of Flanders and it shouldn’t take long for things to become second nature.

The actual rules bit
The outrage is because there’s no distinction between littering and gifting a souvenir, we can all tell the difference between a rider throwing a used bottle into the countryside and throwing it to a crowd who might want a souvenir, right? Only the rule makes no such distinction, there’s no grey area about gifts or good intentions. Here’s the rule screengrabbed and cropped in two parts, first the general rule (NB red ink signals new wording in the UCI rulebook so users can track changes):

and now the specific offence and the punishment from the disciplinary section of the rulebook, the part which the commissaires use:

One section uses the verb “jettison”, the other “throw” but as you can see, it’s concise, unambiguous and Draconian. There’s no first warning, no slapped wrist. Instead a massive deterrent, disqualification in a one day races, a hefty time penalty leading to disqualification for a third offence in stage races. Now littering has never been allowed and previous penalties like Swiss franc fines did nothing, after all they got netted off prize money and so the riders in question never had to open their wallet and unless they studied the post-race communiqué probably didn’t even know they’d been cited.

Give, don’t throw
On the subject of clarity, let’s note the “no throwing” rule as there’s nothing to say a rider cannot hand over a bottle to a fan. Not for Michäel Schär at 45km/h in the Ronde, but easy on a climb or a quieter moment.

This doesn’t make cycling a green sport overnight but at the stroke of a rule change a problem can be solved here making it an easy win, both visually for TV viewers and for the landscape in which the races are run. Once the peloton has stopped slinging waste into the countryside the dedicated waste zones are fixtures then the commissaires may go easy on a rider who chucks a bottle at a crowd.

Murphy’s Law
So far, so good but it was another incident at the weekend that ought to be a concern. In the GP Miguel Indurain Kyle Murphy claims he accidentally dropped a gel wrapper and was disqualified. It’s one thing to punish a rider for a conscious act of littering or throwing a bidon but dropping a gel can be accidental, imagine the rider who reaches for one out of their pocket, hits a pothole… and they’re disqualified or in trying to pull a gel out of a jersey pocket a used bar wrapper gets pulled out as well and flies away in the breeze. Here we get into semantics, is dropping something by accident “jettisoning” or “throwing”? Probably not but just as the riders need to know the new rules by heart, the commissaires have to be sure too. Otherwise things could get very messy.

140 thoughts on “Give, Don’t Throw”

  1. It is inevitable that the first few cases will cause upset of one sort or another. It is far easier to spot a rider off the back “throwing” a bidon to a spectator than it is to work out where the bottle ejected over the heads of the peloton came from. However unless a firm stand is taken the current situation will continue. Whilst it seems easy to allow throwing bottles to spectators it is then a subjective decision as to what happens on each occasion, it will cause more upset and arguments. Simpler and better to just ban throwing (or jettisoning ) of rubbish. I am sure there will be a few more arguments about “accidently” dropped items. I wonder what will happen if it is the person leading the race or GC who throws their bottle in the last few kms, it could have a big effect on a race outcome.

    • +1 The only surprise here is the UCI decided to make an example of a few racers. The riders have had plenty of warning this was coming if from nothing else the fauxtrage over the announcement weeks ago, so they could have started following the rules BEFORE the strict (and well announced) enforcement began.
      C’mon, was someone going to lose a race weeks ago because they carried a bottle past the finish line in a sprint or because they didn’t empty their jersey pockets 1 km before the line? By the time the rules were actually enforced throwing your litter off at a designated zone, into the team car or (horrors!) just holding on to it should have started to become second-nature.

      • Yes, there was literally months of warning.

        The general manager of Rally team should consider firing the sporting director who is clearly too thick for the job. A program of internal team penalties (e.g. washing team vehicles) should have been in place for the pre-season training camp and the races up to 31 March.

        • The Rally sports director was making the point that his penalized rider is in fact very conscientious and the dropped wrapper entirely accidental. And the DS had a good point – if this had been in a bigger race, and involved a star rider, would the commissar have made this call?

  2. The unintended litter the comes when a used gel packet falls from the leg of a rider is also likely, as it is common practise to stick used gel packets up there to avoid mess (and inadvertent dropping when rummaging in jersey pockets) is also likely.
    I feel common sense is warranted. My son would not have a great souvenir from the TdF if the rule is rigorously enforced.

  3. Saving nature & stopping littering is sure a major concern and important.
    But it should be with measurement – at big races there’s a huge caravan throwing sponsor-goodies to who ever wants or not wants it.. there are VIP helicopters at the TdF etc..
    It’s not just all on the pro-riders… we all can do better… including the UCI itself!

    • The rule change just fixes littering from riders, there’s a lot more to do but the caravan seemingly never litters, it’s astonishing to see grown adults dive in ditches to retrieve a keyring. Also telling races or teams to ditch VIPs is harder, a lot of sponsorship exists because of these opportunities, it’s why tightening an existing rule is an easy win but tackling the number of vehicles in the convoy is a more complicated question.

      • Surely team cars and race vehicles could all be electric? I don’t know much about the range of electric cars but I’d imagine they’d be able get through Tour stages, if not Milan-Sanremo. That would appear to be a massive sponsorship opportunity for both a manufacturer of electric vehicles and race organisers. Skoda make/made quite a big deal of their involvement with bike racing.

        • The average *claimed* range of an electric car is 288km (according to New Motion). But they often make nowhere near that. Add mountains (and even bikes on the roof, plus 3+ people in the car?), and you couldn’t rely on it. Plus, you need to be able to charge them all overnight. It might be possible in the relatively near future. Or, if all the teams use Teslas, it would be possible now. Someone should tell Musk.

        • It’ll be a big advertising thing when it comes but as J Evans says, it’s not there yet and could take a while. There’s also driving to the start of the stage, driving to the hotel after and so on so the average day is significantly longer than the race distance. In some ways the sport could be slow to adapt because of this but it’s all a lot harder to arrange compared to getting people to drop littering.

        • Seriously, if you could ride the route of a Tour stage the day after the race and I’d be surprised if you can find a caravan freebie in the verge or ditch the day after, it’s fascinating how people go for these things, it’s like a rugby game only with 60 year old men beating 8 year old girls for a plastic keyring. But you’d find plenty of gels, despite regular waste zones in last summer’s Tour (every 30-40km as it happens, which might tell us who helped draft the UCI rule).

          The caravan’s problems are elsewhere, huge fuel use/CO2 emissions in order to push giant fibreglass chickens and olive oil bottles through the air and a lot of the items given out are plastic junk imported from far away, like keyrings, or single use sachets of detergent, and all for a very blunt marketing campaign.

  4. I think we have all become rightly horrified at the open, constant and unnecessary littering of the countryside by WT teams. The UCI needed to act.
    Bottles as gifts to spectators – not those thrown randomly into the virgin countryside, are a completely different matter. Almost worthless gifts in monetary terms such as bottles are part and parcel of the history of the sport. These gifts are also very popular with spectators as witnessed constantly at every event. A visible relationship between riders and spectators. The UCI needs to better understand this relationship and the goodwill it encourages.

    What will happen to the Tour caravan? The crowds shout and scramble for worthless freebies.

    More history and tradition removed?

      • Is there a possibility of collisions and injuries if riders are handing bidons to fans – especially children? Even at slow speeds, that could be a problem.
        I can even envisage two fans both going for a handed bidon, the road being blocked, riders behind crashing into them… health and safety flights of fancy maybe, but it’s much safer to just throw the bottle to the fan.

        • The reasoning – not mine, the UCI’s – seems to be the other way around, throw a bottle and you don’t know where it ends up, down a ravine, or beside the road prompting a kid to run after it when there’s race traffic around.

          • True enough, I suppose – and none of these bidon incidents have actually happened yet. (Also, a pocket is clearly the answer for wrappers, but they’d probably complain it wasn’t aero.)
            It’s a shame that fewer fans will get souvenirs, but my main issue is the rule being applied equitably in all instances. Didn’t happen in the Ronde, and I’m fairly confident it won’t be in future races.
            And god knows how you deal with ‘accidentally’ dropped garbage – the ham-fisted must be greatly concerned.

    • Worthless freebies? Speak for yourself.
      We’ve still got the much treasured cow-bearing key ring my husband caught ( he was a cricketer) in 2013, it has done sterling service holding the garage key ever since. Still is, actually, even though one of her ears has inexplicably worn away.

      • “Worthless freebies? Speak for yourself”

        Worthless in monetary value to be correct. Personal values are something else entirely. You only have to have witnessed the unholy scramble for such throw away publicity items to understand their value to some people.

        The point was. Will this popular activity from the publicity caravan be yet another victim of the UCIs detachment from some of the important ‘off bike’ activities, which make the sport unique?

  5. Carrot: Roadside target boards with action cam recording. Team prize each day, based on getting your branded bidons into the highest scoring slots. Might even make a fun segment in each highlights video package.
    Stick: Points deduction for each unaccounted bidon from the day’s count of bidons to be handed out.

    • How about a daily team award for the highest scoring team. Could go towards either points classification, time bonuses or monetary/gift award? As you say, this becomes a in competition mini-game a bit like the biathlon.

  6. This should have been an easy win – we’ve all seen riders not even try to hang on to their bidon for a few hundred metres until they’re near some fans, and instead just lobbing it into the countryside – even off bridges into the sea.
    But that’s also the point: the best thing to do has always been to throw it to fans. It’s recycling. Rules are often applied by subjective judgements: in the cases of both Schar and Murphy, commissaires could have sensibly decided ‘That was alright’, if the rules allowed them to do so.
    Not only is this rule nonsensical, but it has – already – not been applied fairly. There were many instances at the Ronde of riders throwing their garbage and not being punished. This is how the UCI always applies its rules – e.g., riders on pavements (happens constantly, then suddenly someone is punished arbitrarily).
    Throwing bidons to fans should have been banned during the covid pandemic.

      • I saw three in the 10 minutes I was looking after Schar was ejected: Cobrelli and Laporte both dropped their bidons on the ground while having their wheels changed, at about 106-104km to go – don’t know if that’s within the rules, though – and rider 147 of Cofidis threw his bidon at 100km.
        What I don’t know is whether or not they were in trash zones because I don’t know where those were – I initially assumed not because this was shortly after Schar’s DQ. Do you – or anyone else – know if 106-100km to go was in a trash zone? (Seems unlikely with rider 147 as it was the middle of nowhere.)
        I also saw WVA dropping a wrapper at 24km to go. It looked like it might well have been accidental.
        Petty, I know, but these are just the ones I happened to notice, and if you DQ Murphy then you have to DQ WVA, if he’s not in a trash zone.

        • Dropping a bidon in the vicinity of a mechanic who is changing a wheel probably counts as disposing of it to a team car. Unless the mechanic left it on the ground?

        • I also thought I saw a few bidons being dropped towards the end of the race by the leaders. It wasn’t clear to me it was in a litter zone and I think the eurosport commentators even mentioned it. These kinds of rules will only work if they are truly draconian AND enforced with consistency. If Asgreen, for example, had been DSQ’d in the final 20km, it would be an even bigger story and an enormous deterrent to littering in the future.

  7. Wasn’t somebody paid to clean up afterwards (creating paid work etc)?
    If accidentally dropping stuff on a freezing cold, windy day means disqualification then this rule doesn’t deserve to last long at all.
    Better to just massively ramp up the fines and compensate the local authorities for any overlooked rubbish IMO.

    • No, there’s nobody to clear up the whole route, you’d need people to walk, say, a 200km route to pick litter from the middle of the road and both sides. Now sometimes towns or areas a long the way will send employees there but it’s more in case crowds leave a mess, eg halfway up Alpe d’Huez but that’s the Tour and a big event, it’s not viable for smaller races (some of which are already finding the new waste zones an additional cost). Ideally there should be no need to clean up after a bike race?

    • I have actually cleaned up a route after an amateur Australian race went through and complaints from locals. About 100 km. Its impossible to get them all. I recall we picked up over 100 bottles and about 10 bags. But we would have missed all the bottles that went into the bush and could only see the ones sitting within a couple of metres.
      Its not a realistic option.

  8. Do we know how many waste zones there are per race, is it one every X km?
    I hope the peloton have some input into this – possible collection points just before steep climbs, approaching the end (20?) km for instance?
    The general wisdom is to feed every half hour, so that may be a trigger point at which to place a waste zone. So a projected 5 hours race would have 9 or 10 waste zones maybe?

    How much does a pair of full bidons weigh and what difference does it actually make to performance, especially on climbs, if a rider was carrying them?
    Maybe only grammes and seconds respectively but in a sport of weight obsession and acute time differences, it could count?
    So, please consult and provide enough waste zones to allow the peloton to positively buy into the change.

    • UCI Regulation 2.3.025

      Organisers must provide several litter zones of sufficient length situated every 30-40 kilometres throughout the route of the event or stage. A final litter zone shall be provided in the last kilometres of a race or stage and before the final section.

      • I should have put that in the piece, it’s 30-40km minimum as DaveRides mentions. It’s a big change as well for the organisers.

        As for the weight penalty, you can always pour the water away if you can’t drink it, no problem leaving just the weight of the bottle and in some instances it can be more aero to have a bottle on the bike than not.

        • I’ve always wondered why racers jettison their bison at 5km to go when it’s not a MTF. Surely a bottle is more aero vs an empty bidon cage?

          An empty frame may well be more aero than one with a bottle, but the bidon cage, oddly shaped as it is, is probably less aero than either the frame itself or one with the bottle attached.

          Then again, I’m sure someone has tested this in the lab…

          • I’d wager the weight factor of dumping a bison might help you on the hills. I’ve seen some riders opt for two llamas on the handlebars, and the occasional saddle camel. Personal choice really.

  9. I love it! For once the UCI has a nice clear cut, easy to read and understand rule, with no room for mis-interpretation (can we get more these please?!). We saw it with Schar, he knew immediately. In a week or two the muscle memory will update and they won’t get caught out. Just like they adapt to loss of supertuck, or wearing helmets, or the wada whereabouts system.

    For Road Cycling to really improve it’s green image though it needs to take a proatctive stance on it’s overall carbon footprint.
    Teams constantly flying back and forth for races and camps. Many dozens of vehicles traveling hundreds of km’s per stage. These things add up fast to give a WT team significant footprint that is far beyond those of a lot of other top tier sports teams.
    Not easy to do with a global calendar, or long distances, but we can’t ignore those surrounding factors.

    Littering is a nice step, but its relative impact is small.

  10. “jettison” definitely implies a conscious act, at least in its English etymology. It comes from the maritime concept of throwing something aboard to lighten a ship’s load. The thing that has been jettisoned – jetsam – can be distinguished from flotsam, which is stuff that has come off the boat accidentally – e.g., it just floated off in heavy waves. A strict construction of the regulations would imply that gel wrappers which accidentally fall off a rider aren’t “jettisoned”. Although it could all be different in French, the word “discard” would probably be more comprehensive.

    I would also query whether a bottle that is going to be reused by its new owner is even “waste” in the normally understood sense, or whether throwing a bottle “at” a spectator is the same as throwing it “to” the spectator .

    I hope to get out more once this lockdown ends.

    • WT teams are mostly* using bio-plastics for team issue bottles, so I hope the recipients are not reusing them.

      Also, giving used bottles to spectators should be suspended during the pandemic. If the marketing value still exists, have some replica bottles printed up and hand them out at race fan zones.

      * the owners of at least three WT teams still have vested interests in oil-based plastics.

      • Why shouldn’t biodegradable bottles be reused? For instance, Tacx Shiva bottles are BPA-free etc just like the old bottles. If one is worried about other chemicals that can leach, one should not use any plastic bottle more than once.
        PS I assume you’re imagining a scenario where a rider is Covid-19 positive and thus leaves a film of virus on the outside of the bottle, which the cycling fan then picks up bare-handed and then at some point, before washing his hands, touches his face and, voilá, we have one more case in the statistics. Well, I can’t say that would never happen.

    • Thanks, the side benefit of lockdowns. I also read the French version of the rules as sometimes things can be badly translated or just reading both helps get a better feel and the term there was “get rid of” (se débarrasser), an act of doing something as well rather than anything involuntary.

  11. Anyone else think the penalties are much more severe for one day races than stage races? If a key domestique litters in a stage race, it is a meaningless penalty for their team, and has zero effect on that rider’s contribution to the team. And if a leader does it, the penalty wouldn’t affect their ability to win other stages, and might even be a deficit that can be overcome in the final GC standing.

    In a one-day race, if that key domestique is pulled from the race early on, the team’s leader is immediately at a substantial disadvantage. And if it’s a leader, it’s game over (which makes it VERY hard for a commissar to make this call against a big star).

    • History shows that big riders are never punished. WVA dropped a wrapper with 24km to go in the Ronde (caveat: I don’t know if that was in a litter zone).

      • History? but you’re only talking about one race and you are not sure if it was permitted or not? It was after the Hotond/Kruisberg and if you look at the video you can see the “waste” symbols on the lamp posts, it was an approved area. A bit of research please before posting.

        • By ‘History shows that big riders are never punished’, I was referring to cycling in general, rather than this specific rule – e.g., no big rider having been caught doping for many years (since Contador?), which means either only lesser riders dope (which seems vastly unlikely), or the big riders get away with it somehow.

          As for WVA, I did say ‘I don’t know if that was in a litter zone’.

        • Another example of big riders not being punished is riding on pavements. Occasionally, seemingly at random, a rider is punished for this. To my recollection, it’s never been one of the favourites. And I see riders deliberately riding on pavements in every Flemish race. That’s why I don’t expect this rule to be applied any differently.

    • There’s a definite asymmetry but I think the message is just “don’t do it, don’t even think of doing it” whereas before plenty of riders were conscious but many were not, there was no meaningful penalty. The 15 point hit for one day and stage racing though could make key domestiques think twice.

  12. The first cases are inevitably considered harsh, particularly by the riders concerned, but, if the UCI wants the action to be effective, then they need to be firm. Tolerance and compromise will only create exceptions which will be exploited by the peloton in the future. In that case the rule will wither like so many other good intentions. How many thousands of single-use bottles are consumed by teams in a normal season.?

      • 27k per team! If we estimate 200 race days per WT team in a normal season and an average of seven riders that works out at almost 20 bidons per rider per race. Even with gifts and losses that sounds a little high and a lot of plastic. Can’t they sterilise and use multiple times?

        • I’ve thought for a long time that they should reuse them, just like most ordinary riders do. Perhaps the bottles are so cheap that it’s easier to throw them/give them to fans than to invest in cleaning/drying equipment, pay someone to operate it and keep track of which bottles are dirty.
          It has to be a good thing to stop riders throwing bottles, though. I’ve seen them discarded in local amateur races and sportives. Presumably those people factor in the replacement cost to the overall expense of taking part in the event – but no one cleans up after them.

      • Interesting read Larry.

        I was going to comment that part of the issue is the huge amount of bottles used because they hand them out with gels attached and the bottle often isn’t wanted by the rider. This all started with the ‘marginal gains’ approach by Sky. Better to have a guy on the roadside than go back to the car. Now everyone is doing it.

        We’ll just have to wait for Sir Dave to invent a way of safely handing out gels only from the kerb… 😉

  13. I certainly don’t think a rider should be ejected for accidentally dropping a wrapper and i hope that the rule won’t be enforced that way because that would be to silly. In a season they riders will have a thousand gels and they are bound to drop one or 2. I remember dropping my last uneaten bar in a 270 km race and i couldn’t stop for it and would be annoyed to get disqualified for it.
    Unless there is footage of the incident everybody is to quick to blame the official for an obvious injustice. There’s no reason to believe the rider’s version 100%. The rider is not exactly a uninvolved bystander.

  14. It’s hard to disagree with this rule change. The sight of the peloton rolling through the countryside with bottles being lobbed out left,right & centre is, quite frankly, repugnant. The problem is the way it looks when a rider receives the same punishment for rolling a bidon towards fans half an hour after two other riders were rejected for dangerous riding. Somehow, whilst being right, it also seems heavy handed.
    I think inner ring himself posted a video, a few years ago , of Wilco Kelderman performing contortions to place a bidon at the feet of a young fan during the TdF. I thought at the time it was a very gracious gesture but would he risk doing it now?
    If the commissairess act with equal handedness then I think habits will change quite quickly but I worry that someone like Schar is an easy target, and it wont be applied to riders at the pointy end of a race.
    My other worry is evidence, you get caught on live tv, it’s quite clear, you have to take your lumps. But will the commissaires take any other footage into consideration and would there be a cut off time after which evidence would not be considered.
    It’s very easy to criticize the UCI, but in this case I think they deserve praise for their stand against littering but I also think, we as fans, need to hold their feet to the fire to see that the rules are enforced consistently.

    • This is precisely the point I’ve been making: cycling’s rules are never applied equitably.
      I’d hate to see Van Vleuten DQ’d – she made a mistake – but how is her mistake different from Schar, Murphy, Borghesi?
      The UCI should be made to explain why Van Vleuten was allowed to keep her title. What other reason could there be than ‘Because she’s a big rider and because it would be a controversial decision, whereas chucking out the others was relatively simple’?
      (I’m sure they’d have an excuse – they always do.)

      • The wild thing from the article about the Borghesi DQ is she said the fine for littering/DQ is the amount of the fine – initially more than the winner’s purse:
        “In addition to being disqualified from the women’s Tour of Flanders, Borghesi was fined. Although she did not confirm the amount of the fine, she said it was more than what the winner of the race would earn in prize money. The minimum prize money for first place, as stipulated by the UCI for a Women’s WorldTour one-day event, is €1,535. However, Cyclingnews understands that the UCI has since reduced the amount of the fine.”

  15. Concerning is what happens when the weather warms up and riders are going through 5-6 bottles an hour.

    Zones every 30-40km are simply not enough. Depending on the terrain that could be anywhere from 45min to 75min. It’s risking dehydration and bottleageddon.

    Now, team helpers can create mobile litter zones simply by being there, but that’s not always logistically possible depending on resources and the race itinerary.

    This has the potential to become cycling’s VAR with retrospective dsq and poor interpretation.

    • Yes, this will need work. The zones were more frequent in the Ronde, 30-40km is the regulatory minimum. But riders can drop bottles off at a team car, in commissaire cars etc. The Tour de France has the “moto fraicheur” delivering bottles of water, riders could return them to the bike as well etc.

      • And the UCI and race organisers will put that work in because they always do, don’t they?
        And riders getting seriously injured because the UCI still won’t police course design by race organisers properly? That will get fixed too because the UCI always puts in the work there, don’t they? And race organisers always care about the health and safety of the riders. And, of course, the UCI will have plenty of time and resources to do all this work plus the will to hold the organisers’ feet to the fire because they won’t be wasting their time and money overseeing petty offences about the length of socks and whether bidons are handed to little children or thrown at them.
        I’ve got a bridge to sell. Are you interested?

    • Maybe the provision of bidons could get supplemented by those packet drinks, the ones whose package can be squashed up and put into a jersey pocket. They could probably be taped to a bidon in fact but obviously would create more mobile waste that must be carried by the riders.

  16. Just looked in at the Itzulia, the break was going through a “waste zone” cue all the riders pulling out lots of small wrappers to be thrown over the road. Surely it would be better to keep them for the end of the race (they dont weigh anything) rather than have scores of small pieces of metallised mylar blowing around, not all are going to get picked up.

    • Worse – just after a feed zone riders were disposing of their musettes by chucking them off the road into the fields (including one bright orange one!). Waste zone of not that shouldn’t be happening.

  17. Moving on from rubbish, in proper cycling news, not sure Cav went full on at the finish but he is on the podium again in a big sprinters race, not sure anyone thought that would happen after his appearance in the race last autumn. The Slovenians won the goat track race in the Basque country, not sure that really tells us much about what might happen in July.

    • Cavendish would have been better used as another leadout man rather than hanging around behind Bennett presumably hoping to get an easy 2nd (or a gift of 1st, if possible?).
      Having said that, Bennett messed up the sprint himself by being too hesitant so I don’t think he can blame Cavendish for his loss (he did say that they ‘just needed one guy in the final’, which could be seen as an ever-so-subtle hint).

      • I believe Cav was there to protect Bennett’s wheel, but had license to do his own sprint as well. He wasn’t merely riding Bennett’s coattails.

        • But he might well have been more use as an extra leadout man, hence that’s what support riders usually do rather than protecting their sprinter’s wheel.

  18. I’d like to share my partner’s musing from watching one of last season’s GTs on a particularly sleepy long stage when tgere was the usual stupidity in the feed zone, with soigneurs stepping out and riders going round the usual fallers and dropped musettes. She said; why don’t they all just stop for lunch?

    -UCI. Feed zones. Sort it out.

    • That’s also a change in the rules for April (nobody’s noticed yet, there’s more too, eg regulating photographers crowding at the finish line) but the feedzones for races have to be much longer with more space per team. I think there’s a chance the soigneurs all bunch together but the aim at least is to allow more space, plus for a while now bags and bottles can be passed up from any other point on the course too, as long as it’s by team staff.

      • It’s the way soigneurs all step out to be the one most visible to oncoming riders, which effectively means they just narrow the road and force other riders to go around their back. UCI-approved collar and leash should do the trick.

        And as for those at amateur races who then run alongside, across the front of others – feel my elbow of vengeance on your jaw.

        • That’s long irked me. If you all charge forward, none of you gain an advantage, you just narrow the road – stay to the side. My solution: a line painted with temporary paint along the road, and soigneurs told that if they cross that line they’re fined.

          • Fines don’t work, it has to be a sporting penalty.

            Imagine that the penalty was that all the riders on the team had to serve a 60 second stop-go penalty at the 5km to go sign, or maybe all the team’s vehicles being removed from the race and the riders left to try their luck with neutral service. It would only take one team losing a race (okay, maybe two – this is cycling after all) for the soigneurs to start obeying the 1 metre limit.

    • That’s a great idea, to stop for lunch–maybe a nap, too, which is a great pleasure during a nice long populaire–but these days it’d have to be takeout anyway so they might as well get it in a musette…

      Maybe for 2022?

      • I think it was when the Tour came to Britain recently that locals heard their area was going to include a feedzone for the riders and they assumed there would be a big tent with tables and chairs inside for the riders and were keen to promote local produce to the riders. Can’t find the article now.

        • I’d pay a lot to see this.
          Fausto Coppi stopping for a coffee “al banco” before winning Milan-Sanremo is a tale that cemented him into a legend.
          Someone stopping for a picnic on the queen stage of the Tour de France, carefully wiping his mouth on the cloth napkin before thanking the chef and picking his bike back up to win the stage 20 km later, now that would be on another level.

          • I had heard that Bahamontes was actually waiting for the service car, but it was stuck behing the peloton, so to pass the time he ate an ice cream at the top of the col de Romeyère, and when riders in the peloton saw him, they all started telling the story of him being crazy.

            Would have been way cooler if he had won the stage though :p

  19. Apologies if this has already been said in the comments I haven’t read, but I can only commend the UCI (really?!!!) for this rule. In every aspect of life the masses imitate their heroes. The amount of litter that a World Tour peloton creates is negligible, but imagine the number of people out riding now who will put their rubbish back in their pocket until they pass a bin, all because the pros do it. It’s like when they mandated helmets. Chapeau

  20. It seems a little unfair to say ‘the riders should have known this wasn’t allowed’. The whole framing and language of the law makes it pretty clear that the intention is to prevent littering, so it’s not unreasonable for riders to have assumed that giving items to fans would still be ok.

    In any case, it seems like there’s plenty of room for interpretation to conclude that it doesn’t ban this, and for commissaires to use some discretion: if you’re giving something to a fan you’re not ‘jettisoning’ it (you’re gifting it); to drop or roll something is arguably not the same as to ‘throw’ it; and even if you are throwing it, throwing ‘to’ a spectator is not necessarily the same as throwing ‘at’ a spectator (the latter seeming to more involve the possibility that it might strike the spectator, or at least being reckless as to whether it might).

    Maybe if the peloton were all to decide to responsibly deposit their bidons in the commissaire’s car they might quickly decide that they could exercise some flexibility in allowing gifting items to fans. :o)

    • To add, the UCI sent briefing material to teams to pass on to riders and everyone was told that they could no longer throw bottles to fans, plus this was emphasised again in the pre-Ronde team managers meeting so they could pass it on to the riders. So everyone knew but recalling it 200km into a race is another thing, the “lizard brain” is in charge habits are hard to change. As you say once the peloton’s tidied up its act I think commissaires will allow rolling and maybe the obvious throw to people as well.

      • Knowing the commissaire in question, I am sure he would have made this abundantly clear during the DS-meeting. He would have emphasised the new set of regulations as well as the consequences of a breach. He would not have hesitated to DQ a race leader (but, as is often the case, I don’t think the two juries got to align on this issue beforehand). He is known to be a very good commissaire with a greateye for exactly when this eye can or should be closed. So surely this decision was him trying to preemtively enforce what was bound to happen if a point wasn’t made. I feel confident that he took the flak for the rest of us that will have to officiate at later events. The bottle issue is – to a great extent – now resolved.
        The wrappers and other “lightweight”-littering, that is going to be a difficult one to operate. Discussions are bound to happen and, hopefully, we can find some kind of modus operandi.
        Please note – i don’t think it was mentioned – that if the culprit cannot be identified, but the team can, the team will get the fine/sanction. (How they decide who to DQ, I’ll leave that hanging here …)

        • If the particular rider can’t be identified and disqualified, the rules need to allow for an alternative sporting penalty to focus the mind.

          Fines don’t work, they are just the price of winning.

          Every rider on the team serving a 30″ stop-go penalty on the side of the road at the 5km to go sign would help promote self-policing. It would not be unfair because it is a team sport – you win together and you lose together.

    • Funny you mentioned that – yesterday on TV (don’t remember what race it was) someone slowed to hand in a bottle to what looked like an organizer’s or race jury’s car..when his own team car was either just behind it or one more car back!
      I thought the same thing: “OK, Mr. Official. We can’t just toss this stuff anymore, so we’ll see how much you folks like collecting it in your car over the course of the race!” One has to wonder how many of those will have had the nozzle left open (like my wife often does, so I get a stream of water down my arm as I put her bike on a rack or hook) so the remaining contents spills into the lap of the driver/passenger? “Ooops, sorry Mr. Official!”
      I agree with Mr. Inrng, this will all be soon sorted out with everyone pretty much knowing what they can and can’t get away with, IMHO the same as with sticky bottles, riding back into the peloton through the race convoy, etc.
      Meanwhile has anyone been warned, sanctioned or DQ’d for sitting on their bike’s top tube or putting their forearms on the handlebars yet?

      • No doubt the rules will be applied entirely arbitrarily as UCI rules so often are – e.g. drafting behind cars: we see it all the time, but then Nils Eekhoff gets DQ’d for it.

  21. If anyone should be DQ’d for littering, it should be the Tour de France publicity caravan. Anyway,

    Some years ago, I was working on the Tour de Yorkshire marshalling at a cattle grid. After the race went through, a little boy came up to me holding a bidon telling me one of the riders has dropped it and could I return it to the rider. I told him that riders often threw bottles away and spectators were encouraged to collect them as souvenirs. But this boy would have none of it, he flatly refused the bottle and insisted I took it and returned it to the rider. After a bit of to and fro, I caved in and took the bottle as I had to catch up with the race. I still have the bottle today.

    • You could make a game of it, throw your bidon into the bin on the back of the motorbike. 2″ time bonus for every shot, 3″ if it’s thrown over 5m or more. But you get DSQ’d if you miss and don’t pick it up afterwards.

  22. I’ve only been following cycling for ten years, and one of the things that struck me at first was the littering.

    It’s unacceptable.

    I hope riders keep being DQ’d for this, for as long as it takes.

    I’m sure they don’t do it on their training rides. Nor when they are walking down the street.

    • I can personally verify that they do in fact do it on training rides. Maybe not all teams, but certainly one French team managed by a shouty old man and sponsored by a national lottery.

      There was an ample transition period between the new penalties being announced and their taking effect. During this time, teams should have been helping the riders get used to the new rules by applying internal penalties for any rider caught throwing away bottles during an early season race or a team training/recon ride. Doing all the washing up for the team’s dinner or washing all the support vehicles would have helped focus the mind a little.

  23. I think it was a mistake for the UCI to suddenly crack down on both bidons and other garbage at the same time. Tradition is so strong in the sport we love and I’m one of countless folks who have been thrilled to be on the receiving end of a jettisoned pro bidon. Whereas no one ever has been pleased to face discarded gel wrappers or other obvious garbage.

    A phased crackdown may have been wiser. Go 100% draconian on the gel wrappers and other garbage now for a year or two, and simultaneously ramp up the pressure for discussion among teams to self-police the bidon thing. On normal stages with heavy crowds during non-covid times, bidons are generally not litter, at least in my experience at the Giro (they’re mostly retrieved). Whereas in covid times or on stages in remote or ecologically sensitive habitat, the peloton under pressure from team management… and with leadership and facilitation from race direction… should be able to reduce bidon discards.

    This would allow full focus on total elimination of gel wrapper garbage discards, without the distraction of race juries trying to figure out whether bidons are a gift or litter.

    Then in a year or two, with gel-wrapper victory firmly achieved, and a more ecologically respectful attitude taking root in the peloton (with thanks to the big-stick approach of severe consequences), begin a strong but rational and focused crackdown on bidon discards.

  24. George Bennett interview with Velonews;-“It’s such a double-standard when you’ve got the UCI behaving like absolute cowboys,” he said. “All they seem to care about is world champion’s stripes on a skin suit and color patterns on a national jersey. Why not focus on finish lines, rider safety, anti-doping, and managers in women’s teams where there are sexual harassment cases – things that are actual issues.

    “They’re putting all of them in the ‘too hard’ basket, but bin guys for littering because they can see that here and now,” he continued. “They’re just looking at the things that are in front of their face, that they can do something about as opposed to trying to actually fix our sport. This bottle thing seems like a good metaphor of just how ridiculous they are.”

    • Whines the guy still mad because he never bothered to look at the rules before deciding he deserved his own personal national champ’s jersey and had it made….only to find out he couldn’t wear it in races 🙁
      Note to Mr. Bennett: You whine: “Why not focus on finish lines, (They’re working on that) rider safety (No more sitting on the top tube) anti-doping (they’re NOT working on that?) and managers in women’s teams where there are sexual harassment cases (the perv has been sanctioned)– things that are actual issues.”
      Perhaps you’ve not been paying attention?

    • Surely lots of the things he asks for are being addressed too? It was the same with the supertuck ban news in February, lots of online outrage along the lines of “why can’t the UCI focus on X instead” when the position ban was only one line but got all the headlines and all the safety improvements didn’t make for buzz/clicks, see He’s got a point about Marc Bracke though, that case needs to be resolved yesterday.

      • On bottles. According to Luke Rowe, someone threw a full bottle about 10k out from the finish of a TdF sprint stage last year and it hit a 3 year old that sustained permanent brain damage.

        For those up thread saying “no child’s ever been injured”, I hope they realise that just because they aren’t aware of incidences, it doesn’t mean they don’t happen.

        • I can’t find any comment above saying “no child’s ever been injured”, but I think almost everyone would agree that it’s not safe to throw a full bidon anywhere, especially not at people – that’s ~1kg. I’m not aware of that incident (can’t find it online), but it should have become a police matter.
          That’s in no way similar to an empty bidon being thrown towards fans, almost invariably bouncing before it reaches them – and again I don’t think anyone would suggest that you should throw even empty bidons towards toddlers.

          • No, but you stated “and none of these bidon incidents have actually happened yet.” above, which amounts to the same thing. We can’t assume that nothing happens just because we haven’t heard about them.

          • I can’t find the details of the injury Luke Rowe mentions but it could be from 2015 when an Astana rider threw one and a 6 year old required stitches on her head but no cerebral trauma ( , hopefully it was this example rather than the one he mentioned.

            They don’t always bounce or get thrown right. I got the Jumbo one in the photo above last summer… it was a quarter full and left me with a bruise, it was from a gentle lob but when riders are doing 30km/h uphill that means the bidon lands at, say, 40km/h. No small violin from here… just makes you think.

          • Listened again and not sure why I added “last year”. That’s from doing two things at once!

            The rest is as I said but it wouldn’t surprise if he is referring to the incident you found.

          • D. Evans, when I said: ‘and none of these bidon incidents have actually happened yet’, I was referring to my own comment, where I’d said:

            ‘Is there a possibility of collisions and injuries if riders are handing bidons to fans – especially children? Even at slow speeds, that could be a problem.
            I can even envisage two fans both going for a handed bidon, the road being blocked, riders behind crashing into them… health and safety flights of fancy maybe, but it’s much safer to just throw the bottle to the fan.’

      • You are right, I was getting the perverts mixed up but at least this one’s name is now out there so potential victims are aware and can stay away from this team and question why this guy’s not already been sacked. B
        But hey, Sir Dave B. claimed to be totally unaware of various other “doctor”s abuses when they were finally outed on his team, so some would wonder what’s the rush?

      • One last (I promise) bit – is DOLTCINI really the name of a cycling clothing company? Really? Dunno what DOLT means in Belgium but in English it’s not a positive while Italians put “ini” on the end of words they want to indicate small in size as in “dolcini” (little sweets)…so WTF do they call their company DOLTCINI? Perhaps by employing this pervert they’ve proved they’re “little morons”?

        • Not sure who the morons are in this saga, the UCI aren’t doing themselves any favours (again!) by appearing to go easy on abusers.

          • I think it’s the difficulty of a small sports governing body, they have to give Bracke all due process and not rush things etc otherwise he or a smart-ass lawyer will claim the process was unfair, rushed etc and sue, we see this with prolonged anti-doping cases and other discliplinary events with the UCI. So the way to hopefully nail Bracke for good is to ensure he can’t complain about the process. Ideally though he wouldn’t complain and the process would be much faster though because it looks awful.

        • The cycling clothing company doesn’t own or run the cycling team, does it?
          It could be they did consider withdrawing from sponsoring the team, but found that they didn’t (yet) have legal grounds to do so. Or they thought that continuing was more important not only for their own business but for the team and for women’s cycling in general.
          But then again, it could be that the decisions of the title sponsor were made by another middle-aged man who has a decades long friendship with the…controversial general manager and who is too willing to view him as misunderstood and wrongly accused.
          The point is…there are morons but I don’t see any here in this case.
          PS DolTcini looks good, gives an idea of the correct pronounciation and possibly originally intended to suggest triathlon. And no one apart from native English speakers gives a toss about the meaning of “dolt” in English
          PPS Stumbled on this Apparently it is normal that the disciplinary committee takes or has to take its time: in a previous case of similar nature the process lasted no less than ten months.
          PPPS Bracke may well be found guilty of sexual harrassment, but I’m not too sure that he is a pervert or indeed that it would be proper to call him a pervert even after he has received a sanction.

          • They may not OWN the team but they sponsor it and put their name on it so…
            Wasn’t this guy accused of demanding bikini/underwear photos of the racers?
            Some of the women involved thought this was…well….for lack of a better word…”perverted” I think, at least based on this definition of perverse: “Contrary to the accepted or expected standard or practice.” and brought it to the attention of authorities?
            Even if the guy was using ’em to somehow determine body fat levels or something else related to racing fitness, this smacks of well….perversion.
            Does Peter Sagan have to send photos of himself in his underwear to the coaches at BORA?

          • The demands for the kind of photos that excite your imagination were addressed to two North Americans who wanted to join the team. It is indeed possible that the general manager made similar demands to the riders whose legs he could observe or whose percentage of body fat he thought he could estimate in a more normal manner – in person and not necessarily stripped to their bra and panties – but if so, we haven’t heard about it from those riders.
            The rider who used EPO has made a number of other accusations, but unless I missed it, a demand for bikini photos was not among them.

            DolTcini could indeed have withdrawn their sponsorship with immediate effect – and possibly even able to find a suitable legal basis or excuse for it – but that would have left the riders and the staff without a team, wouldn’t it?
            In an ideal world DolTcini and Van Eyck Sport – the other title sponsor, a bike shop that was named fortunately enough so as to avoid ending up as a target of Larry’s criticism – would have been able to limit the damages by setting up a new team for the 2021 season, but it could well be that it wasn’t a viable option in the world that exists.

          • @Eskerrik Asko – Marion Sicot (the banned EPO doper) did make exactly those claims against Bracke.

            I’m only aware of one American rider who made complaints against Bracke’s conduct during contract negotiations (Sara Youmans) rather than two. I think you’ve got some of the stories mixed up.

            Whether he demanded bikini photos during contract negotiations or from a current rider (or both, as has been claimed) is beside the point – doing so at any point is a clear cut case of sexual harassment.

            It’s also quite an ineffective method for a coach/manager to tell anything meaningful about a rider’s performance, so ineffective that it is not remotely credible as a defence. Anyone with basic experience using Photoshop could make Kim Kardashian look like a skinny cyclist in just a few minutes.

            @Larry T – Sagan doesn’t need to send the photos, the team gets them straight from Hansgrohe each time he does an advertising shoot for them 😉

          • DaveRides – I though of Sagan’s Hansgrohe publicity stunts shortly after I hit the “submit” button. Should have used Chris Froome as an example instead?
            Still have nightmares about the time we walked into our hotel atop Alpe d’Huez post-stage and saw most of the ONCE team stripped naked and lined up to be weighed. Next to the scale were boxes of saline bags and the rest of the IV equipment. I turned around and shooed our clients back out the door, hoping they wouldn’t see such an awful image.

          • DaveRides: thanks for the correction, I shouldn’t have trusted my short term memory, apparently my brain was overtaxed by the effort of reading Dutch. The other North American rider was Maggie Coles-Lyster whose complaints were about the behaviour of a team soigneur (whom the general manager later sacked). Somehow I managed to get her and the French rider Marion Sicot mixed up.
            But I’m afraid you wasted your time explaining why a demand for such photos could and should be seen as sexual harassment or – if we accept the explanation given – why the whole idea of is incredibly stupid and should have been left to gather dust with other remnants of cycling’s old times. I cannot imagine there is anyone here who would argue otherwise.

    • The UCI have had since October to deal with Bracke. Any other organisation would surely have provisionally suspended him.
      As for doping, well either only not particularly good riders dope, or the good riders are getting away with it. (I can’t think of a top rider who has been caught since Contador – and the UCI even kept that quiet for months, and it was only then revealed by a journalist.)

  25. I don’t understand how they can really determine the difference. And why they need to spend time monitoring this. I get it for gels and food wrappers, but clearly the bottles are advertising and building loyalty.

    I do wonder how they’ll determine when a gel wrapper blows out of their hand when they reach back to put it in their pockets.

    This is policy for policy sake.

  26. Reading the comments since citing the George Bennett interview it’s no wonder that disciplinaries take so long, when there’s so many minutiae to go into.
    And if we’re making English complaints, did you see how long it took to bring down (now ex) Doctor Richard Freeman, as if this really has dealt with all the issues around bullying, sexism, body-shaming, coercion and doping at a publicly-funded governing body where a hushed-up report found resources got diverted to further private interests. This guy was the medical officer for the world’s most successful track and road racing teams, where others had way more power than him, and who are still in the sport doing much the same thing. Freeman may have a lot of information, but on the other hand his financial security possibly depends on him not disclosing it.
    Let’s get these matters resolved before being too critical of a brand name.

    • RE: “Let’s get these matters resolved before being too critical of a brand name.”
      Sorry, I was just hoping someone would explain the clothing company name, one which isn’t a name of anyone involved in the company as far as I could tell and seems kind of dumb in the (few) languages I understand. I wondered if it was like the old joke about the Chevrolet automobile sold in the USA and South America. NOVA meant one thing in the north but seemed more like NO VA in the south. Sometimes things don’t translate well – back-in-the-day the bike shop I worked in brought in some frames from Italy made by FAGGIN, only to have customers tell us there was NFW they were gonna buy a frame with that name on the downtube!

    • If Freeman has doping stories to tell that don’t involve incriminating himself he’ll tell them.
      30 seconds on any pro sport forum makes it clear that doing so will be very financially lucrative for him if he takes a bit of time to shop around.
      As for the bullying stuff etc., I can’t help but role my eyes at that: so it turns out that the road to being the best in the world is often brutal, tortuous and nasty… not really a revelation, is it.
      It’s like those fresh-faced interns complaining about overtime at Goldman Sachs… if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

  27. Lighter note to esteemed host INRNG;- What are the chances of anyone ever being able to preview la Vuelta al Pais Vasco stage-by-stage!? It’s been a plot twister alright.

  28. I think the new rule is well written, in that the English version is clear: jettisoned or thrown.
    However, I would toughen up the rules on gel wrappers to include accidently dropped. The wrappers are a much worse form of pollution than bidons as they are light enough to be blown in the wind.

    This rule is long overdue.

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