Sylvain Chavanel lost the Paris-Nice prologue by 56 one hundredths of a second, and Omega Pharma-Quick Step sport director Wilfried Peeters thinks he knows why – it was the material. Winner Damien Gaudin wore not only a different jersey, but may also owe his victory to an illegal helmet, Peeters indicated.
Europcar's Gaudin covered the technical 2.9km course in 3:37, beating Chavanel by a whisker. One of the reasons for this, Peeters told Het Nieuwsblad, is that “Sylvain rode with short sleeves while Gaudin wore long sleeves. This kind of detail made the difference.”
The longer sleeves would apparently provide more wind resistance, as would any kind of helmet cover. Peeters charged that Gaudin's helmet, which while not entirely covered, did not conform with the regulations.
“Gaudin had a sticker on his helmet, which is in principle not allowed. It covered a vent” in the helmet, he said.
The helmet cover controversy came to a head after the 2011 World Championships, when Mark Cavendish won whilst wearing a fully covered helmet. Such covers were subsequently banned.
The UCI has said, “Adding a removable cover is not allowed (...) There is no regulation about the surface condition, or composition of the material used for the helmet, but it is not possible to add anything to it.”