Fines a cost of operating in Tour de France

Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) is assisted following his heavy crash.

Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) is assisted following his heavy crash. (Image credit: AFP)

Every evening the Tour de France issues the official results of the day’s stage along with the full standings for the overall classification and the other jerseys in the race. The same release contains details of other incidents during the day.

There’s a summary of riders seeking medical attention, a formal record of those who drop back to the medical car for treatment, usually because of a crash but we’ve seen riders get help for more random complaints, for example BMC Racing’s Amaël Moinard got a bee sting inside his mouth the other day.

But the fines issued each day are also documented. Riders and team staff commit a variety of infractions and the fines vary according to the offence. For example on the opening stage Rabobank’s Carlos Barredo was fined 50 Swiss Francs (about US$60) and docked 20 seconds for "prolonged sheltering behind a vehicle".

Last Thursday’s rainy stage to Lisieux was won by Sky’s Edwald Boasson Hagen but it wasn’t such a happy day for Team Europcar. The French squad was fined 1,000 Swiss Francs ($1,175) when their mechanic leaned out of the car to conduct a moving repair on one of their rider’s bikes.

Yes, you read that right, it is actually against the rules for a rider to draw alongside the team car and get their bike fixed on the move with UCI rule 2.3.030 saying it must be only "when stationary" and 2.3.031 stating "persons riding in vehicles shall not reach or lean out". It’s for safety reasons but an odd rule because if you’ve followed the sport for a while you’ll have seen many mobile repairs from an acrobatic mechanic hanging out of the team car.

Regulation might sound very specific but it is about "insults, threats, unseemly behaviour", a catch-all term for a variety of inappropriate moves. It’s this rule that often sees a handful riders fined for "urinating in public" every day but again if you’ve watched the race you’ll have seen the moments when the bunch stops en masse for what the French call a "pause pipi". It’s a moment so public you can see it on TV; one of the downsides of HDTV broadcasting. So you have to wonder how the rule gets applied, although urinating whilst riding along and splashing roadside spectators is likely to result in a donation to the UCI.

The list of naughty riders and staff tends to reveal who gets caught rather than every misdemeanour committed. In races like the Tour de France the jury of commissaires is big and some travel on motorbikes to survey as much as possible. Most infractions happen when riders are outside of the bunch, hidden amongst the long convoy of vehicles. In fact you can watch the race on TV and spot things that the officials miss.

The UCI’s last set of published accounts dates from 2009 when they collected 179,984 Swiss Francs ($215,000) in "fines and appeals" but this was less than 1% of the UCI’s annual revenues that year.

For riders these fines are part of the job. Often the fines are offset against prize money for the team and a rider isn't usually out of pocket. Nobody wants to get them but they’re what you might call an operating cost. A team could be fined for a mobile repair but maybe they’d prefer to risk this instead of losing time by stopping to fix things. Similarly if a rider has to pee, well they gotta go.

But talking of going, if someone can be fined once or twice, there are offences where a third offence risks disqualification from the race. This is gets heavy, a leap from a few hundred Swiss francs to a scenario that could change the outcome of a race.

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The Inner Ring blog has rapidly emerged as one of the most well informed and informative blogs about professional cycling. 

The author has preferred to keep his identity a secret but clearly has a finger on the pulse of the sport. He writes from a fan's point of view but has inside knowledge of the sport thanks to a network of contacts and a close monitoring of the cycling media.