The UCI has backtracked on applying stiff fines and ranking point penalties if riders arrive late at race sign-on after the peloton threatened to go on strike before the final stage of the UAE Tour.
The UCI changed the rules of the sign-on protocol for the 2019 season because riders often stayed on their team buses and arrived en-masse in the final minutes before the start of races. That offered little interest to the local crowds and left race organisers embarrassed.
Riders were previously obliged to sign on at a specific time on the opening stage of a race. Now race organisers can force teams to respect a time slot on every stage in the 70 minutes before a stage start.
UAE Tour organiser RCS Sport issued a daily schedule for the new WorldTour race but several failed to respect their time slots, sparking a strong reaction from the UCI commissaires.
The seven riders from Katusha-Alpecin, UAE Team Emirates, Groupama-FDJ and Astana were all fined 500 Swiss Francs (£375, $495) and were docked 20 UCI ranking points. Each team’s directeur sportif was also fined 1,000 Swiss Francs.
The day after the Bahrain-Merida riders were fined 500 Swiss Francs for signing on in non-competition clothing, even if the rule on clothing is not clear. They had an early slot in the schedule and so went to sign on in team-issue T-shirts and shorts.
The UCI has been hitting riders and team with a series of new fines, including for drafting behind team cars in the race convoy after a crash or puncture and so riders were angry to also be fined for missing their sign-on slots but just a few minutes. Some took to social media to vent their anger, others were more organised.
Cyclingnews has been told that riders went as far as threatening not to start the final stage of the UAE Tour with only direct intervention from UCI president David Lappartient avoiding a public protest.
It was agreed the fines and ranking point penalties would be suspended with the rider’s CPA association due to sit down with the UCI after Milan-San Remo. The riders expected the scale of fines to be reduced and do not want to lose any of their hard-fought ranking points docked for minor offences such as podium protocols.
RCS Sport continued to issue a time schedule for the sign-on at this week’s Tirreno-Adriatico and riders appeared to generally respect their time slots even if their team buses were parked several kilometres away. No fines were issued in the opening stages of the Italian stage race.
The UCI did not respond when contacted by Cyclingnews for an explanation and reaction.