Tour de France 2020

Tour Time Trial Tech: The UCI’s new rules

Going into this year's Tour, a small, gnawing uncertainty lingered — would stricter enforcement of UCI rules cause start-line drama for any teams or riders? Cycling’s international governing body issued a statement in May indicating they would take a hard line. Specifically, aero bars and seatposts would be carefully measured for compliance with UCI rules.

By Zack Vestal

2009 Tour Tech, UCI rules: On this Garmin TT bike, extra material was added to thicken the trailing edge for compliance.

2009 Tour Tech, UCI rules: On this Garmin TT bike, extra material was added to thicken the trailing edge for compliance.

Photo: Zack Vestal

Going into this year’s Tour, a small, gnawing uncertainty lingered — would stricter enforcement of UCI rules cause start-line drama for any teams or riders? Cycling’s international governing body issued a statement in May indicating they would take a hard line. Specifically, aero bars and seatposts would be carefully measured for compliance with UCI rules.

Further, in June, just weeks before the race, the UCI issued a new document: “Technical Regulations for Bicycles — A Practical Guide to Implementation.” The new document, meant to clarify existing rules, includes completely new language and diagrams that caused a wave of confusion among some teams and manufacturers.

Happily, no riders were thrown off the start in Monaco. A combination of proactive work by teams, manufacturers, and the UCI seems to have averted any issues.

2009 Tour Tech, UCI rules: Vision provided material to teams to thicken their bars.

2009 Tour Tech, UCI rules: Vision provided material to teams to thicken their bars.

Photo: Zack Vestal

As it turned out, many teams and manufacturers (but not all) were given assurance, before the Tour started, that their bikes were legal.

Aero base bars and the 3:1 aspect ratio

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, before the start in Monaco, the UCI sent officials through the team paddock to check bikes for compliance. However, there was some confusion at first.

Garmin-Slipstream team mechanic Tom Hopper described the proactive effort by UCI officials to avoid any last-minute problems complying with the UCI rules that limits aero base bars to being no wider (front to back) than three-times the height. The 3:1 rule means, for example, a one-inch tall bar can’t be more than three inches wide.

2009 Tour Tech, UCI rules: This space on the P4 is normally occupied by a wedge-shaped water bottle.

2009 Tour Tech, UCI rules: This space on the P4 is normally occupied by a wedge-shaped water bottle.

Photo: Zack Vestal

“The UCI came to every team (Friday before the start in Monaco) and they were looking at the 3:1 ratio. And all the bars that are on the bikes right now we had replaced.” He continued, “They are new bars that 3T sent us, and the UCI came and measured them and said they are not compliant. So we did have to modify the bars and add a little thickness.” After adding the extra material (some gel padding normally used for handlebars and elbow pads), Hopper said they asked the UCI to re-check, and officials agreed that the modified bars complied.

However, after some phone calls, the UCI reversed its original position, and agreed with the team that the bars complied and the extra material was not needed. The Garmin team ended up not using the extra material on the bars during the race, and had no problems on the start line.

The Cervelo TestTeam uses the same 3T Pro Mistral base bars as Garmin. Cervelo co-founder Gerard Vroomen described the UCI’s visit to his team’s pit. By his account, on first measurement, UCI officials measured 2.5cm thickness, and 6cm depth. As with the UCI official’s first visit to the Garmin pit, they at first said that the bars were out of compliance and moved on. But upon the team’s insistence, they both measured and calculated again, and evidently found the math to be satisfactory.

2009 Tour Tech, UCI rules: In order to fit the Elite aero bottle cage, the upper mount had to be secured with an extra bracket.

2009 Tour Tech, UCI rules: In order to fit the Elite aero bottle cage, the upper mount had to be secured with an extra bracket.

Photo: Zack Vestal

A few days after the confusion, Richard McAinsh, technical director at 3T, showed VeloNews a document from the UCI that explicitly approved the 3T bars.

Full Speed Ahead (which makes aero bars under the Vision name) gave teams padding and decals to thicken the base bars and bring them into compliance. Many teams with Vision bars, including Euskaltel-Euskadi, Liquigas, and Milram, could be seen with the modification in place.

Other bikes and compliance issues

One bike that was known in advance to have a problem was the Cervelo P4. The large, slender water bottle that fills the down- and seat-tube junction is known to not fit within the frame dimension chart included in the UCI Technical Regulations. Without being asked by the UCI, the Cervelo Test Team replaced the frame-filling bottle with a standard bottle cage and aero water bottle.

Mounting the non-Cervelo bottle required some custom work by team mechanics, including using a fabricated bracket for the upper bottle cage mount, and drilling an extra hole in the cage for its lower mount.

Aside from the bottle, no other issues with the Cervelo bikes were noted.

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