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Riders hope to overturn bottle disqualification rule at UCI meeting

Tim Declerq takes a drink from a bidon
Tim Declerq takes a drink from a bidon (Image credit: Getty Images)

Riders and teams hope the UCI will change the new strict rules on the disposal of drinking bottles in races during a meeting of the Professional Cycling Council on Wednesday, thus ending the disqualification of riders for a single offence that sparked controversy after the Tour of Flanders. 

Letizia Borghesi (Aromitalia Basso Bikes Vaiano) and Michael Schär (AG2R-Citroën) were both disqualified for throwing away a bottle outside the designated waste zones at the Tour of Flanders after the new rules came into force on April 1.  

The strict rules on the disposal of bottles or bidons as part of wider rule changes on littering and safety that included bans on supertuck positions, improvements to finish area barriers and the introduction of a UCI Safety Manager and Event Safety Manager for each race. 

Schär turned to social media to recount his own experience of how picking up a discarded bottle gained him a treasured and inspirational souvenir when he was a child, a viewpoint that drew support from Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), who called for the rules to be revised. Borghesi highlighted how fines for littering were very high compared to the limited amount she earns in the women’s peloton.  

Last week the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA) and the AIGCP teams association sent a joint letter to UCI president David Lappartient asking the UCI to reconsider the rule on throwing bottles to roadside fans.

Riders and teams are in favour of punishing those who throw bottles away in disregard of the environmental impact but they want the right to be able to give fans a bottle as a souvenir by throwing them in their direction. 

They are also angry how the rule and strict punishment was pushed through with the rest of the new safety and littering rules after being given a verbal promise that throwing bottles towards fans would not be punished. It appears that all the stakeholders voted to approve the new rules in February after it was suggested that throwing bidons to fans could lead to accidents and injury from other vehicles in the race convoy.     

The riders and teams also hope to discuss a series of further rules and guidelines on the disposal of bottles, the possibility of different levels of punishment for littering, the addition of more and better identified litter zones, and the use of biodegradable bottles and food wrappings.

It is unclear if Lappartient and the UCI will backtrack and change the rules during the Professional Cycling Council meeting. However Cyclingnews understands the subject has been added to the agenda of the PCC meeting. 

The PCC members include representatives from all the key stakeholders of the sport including teams, riders, race organisers and the UCI. Tom Van Damme, the president of the Belgian Cycling Federation and a former UCI vice-president, is the president of the PCC. 

The PCC's written objectives include to “closely follow developments in the road professional cycling sector and [...] react appropriately in the event of events or trends which may threaten its activities or organisation.” 

Last week the UCI appeared unwilling to reopen the debate on bottles, telling Cyclingnews: “The plan asks everyone to behave in an exemplary manner, both for safety and for the protection of the environment and the image of our sport, in particular with regard to the younger generation and the general public.”

“We firmly believe that these measures, which in some cases require changes in attitudes, will contribute to making cycling the sport of the 21st century."