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Strict penalties amended for first-time offenders throwing bottles in races

CEYZERIAT FRANCE AUGUST 07 Christopher Froome of The United Kingdom and Team INEOS Feed Zone Soigneur Peloton during the 32nd Tour de LAin 2020 Stage 1 a 140km stage from MontralLaCluse to Ceyzriat 304m tourdelain TOURDELAIN TDA on August 07 2020 in Ceyzeriat France Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images
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Strict penalities that have been enforced as part of new UCI rules on rider safety have been softened after a meeting of the governing Professional Cycling Council (PCC) but riders will still be punished for throwing bottles to roadside fans due to road safety environmental concerns.

Riders and teams have criticised the rules after Michael Schär (AG2R Citroën Team) and Letizia Borghesi (Aromitalia-Basso Bikes-Vaiano), were disqualified from races for throwing a bidon to fans during the Tour of Flanders.

On Wednesday, a meeting via video conference was held with all organizations in the Professional Cycling Council, as well as representatives for women’s teams, UNIO, and riders, CPA Women. It resulted in amendments to the penalties for rules violations, with fines and ranking points deductions assessed with first-time offenders rather than immediate disqualification. 

However the UCI reiterated in a statement that "Throwing bottles and waste outside dedicated zones provided by the organiser for this purpose remains forbidden."

The PCC said it would begin to enforce the new measures this Saturday, April 17 after approval of the UCI Management Committee.

The UCI said any fines collected for littering will be allocated to the UCI’s Environmental Strategy.

“Following these numerous exchanges with the different stakeholders, it was judged appropriate to adapt the sanctions for the new rules concerning the discarding of bottles and waste outside dedicated litter zones," UCI President David Lappartient in an official statement released Wednesday. 

"The UCI is pleased that a solution acceptable to all parties could be found, which maintains the essential: the safety of riders and the public and cycling’s environmental responsibility.” 

Schär and Borghesi were disqualified from respective men’s and women’s races at the Tour of Flanders when race officials determined they each had broken the new rule for safely discarding a water bottle. Under the same rule, Kyle Murphy of Rally Cycling was disqualified from GP Indurain for an empty energy gel wrapper being discarded, or unknowingly dropped as the rider noted, outside a designated waste zone. The discussions were focused on the violations and penalties related to water bottles only.

Riders and teams wanted to maintain the tradition of throwing bottles to roadside fans, suggesting it was one of the traditions of the sport and often inspired young fans to start cycling. However the UCI are concerned about road safety and the environmental impact if bottles are not collected by fans. In theory riders can throw bottles to their team assistants who can then pass them on to roadside fans. 

“Throwing bottles to the public, in particular, is a proven danger both for the riders and the public: on multiple occasions, crashes have been caused by bottles thrown to spectators and coming back onto the road, and spectators have been injured by bottles thrown by riders into the public," the UCI  claimed.

"Moreover, the UCI wants to avoid fans, notably children, trying to get close to riders during races, to avoid accidents with potentially dramatic consequences (collision with riders or vehicles in the race caravan for example).”

The UCI also said it will monitor the process and that after this season, “could adapt the sanctions if the riders and teams repeatedly violate the rule covering the throwing of bottles and waste outside dedicated litter zones.”  

New sanctions for throwing bottles and waste outside dedicated zones

· At a one-day race, the first infringement will be punished by a fine and a deduction of UCI points (respectively 100 to 500 Swiss francs and 5 to 25 points depending on the class of event), whereas a second infringement will result in the disqualification of the offending rider. Previously, the regulation stipulated a fine, deduction of UCI points and immediate disqualification from the first violation.

· At stage races, the first infringement will be punished by a fine and a deduction of UCI points (respectively 100 to 500 Swiss francs and 5 to 25 points depending on the class of event). The second infringement will result in a time penalty (1 minute) and the third to disqualification. Previously, the regulation stipulated a fine, deduction of UCI points and a 30-second time penalty for the first infringement, a 2 minute time penalty for the second infringement and disqualification for the third.

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