Lotto Soudal manager Marc Sergeant has questioned the UCI’s decision to ban the so-called ‘speed gel’ that the team used during the team and individual time trials at the Criterium du Dauphine last week. Sergeant likened the gel, which leaves deposits of small ‘washing powder’ balls on the riders' legs, to the dimple inserts used by Team Sky in their skinsuits.
The odd-looking gel was visible on the legs of the riders during the prologue and team time trial during last week's Dauphiné but was notable in its absence in the opening team chrono at the Tour de Suisse. The gel is sprayed onto the legs and leaves the washing powder ball-like deposits. According to Harm Ubbens, Project Manager at the Flanders Bike Valley wind tunnel, the deposits are said to increase frictional drag on the leg to reduce airflow separation, and therefore provide a reduction in the 'severity of the unsteady wake' and the suction effect that it has. The theory behind it is similar to that of the dimpled skinsuits used by Team Sky. It is also said to help with cooling.
"I received a call from Jean-Christophé Péraud, the UCI Materials and Equipment manager," Sergeant told Het Nieuwsblad. "He told me that it is not allowed, that they will investigate the matter and that the regulations – with the Tour at the door – will be adjusted in the coming weeks.
"I have told Péraud that Sky still races with those suits. Also, there are strips on the shoulders and arms worked in to reduce the air resistance at high speed. He would also tackle that, but Péraud believes that we should not put anything on the legs with the intention of riding faster. But my question is: is sunscreen or mud not allowed? It is certainly not in the current regulations.”
Team Sky caused a brief controversy at the start of last year’s Tour de France with their ‘vortex generator’ skinsuit. FDJ coach Fred Grappe queried the suits, which included a textured insert on the upper arm that was designed to smooth the airflow over the arms.
UCI regulations specify that: "It is also prohibited to wear clothing or skinsuits to which non-essential elements have been added with a view to improving their aerodynamic properties such as, for example, 'wings' under the arms or an extension between the helmet and the jersey or skinsuit. It is obligatory for clothing to follow the cyclist's body shape."
However, the UCI commissaries deemed that the skinsuit was legal as the patches were integral to the skinsuit. This is where Lotto Soudal’s speed gel appears to have fallen down as it is not integrated but an aero addition. The UCI confirmed to Cyclingnews that the ban of the speed gel had been made under article 1.3.033, which forbids "non-essential items of clothing or items designed to influence the performances of a rider such as reducing air resistance or modifying the body of the rider."
Sergeant and the Lotto Soudal are querying the decision with the UCI and the Belgian added that “if we don’t get a satisfactory answer then we might be able to take it to the Tour.