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FLORENCE (VN) — Cycling’s governing body ahead of the Tour de France is barring any gel or cream to be used on riders’ bodies that help airflow.
The UCI made its move following Lotto-Soudal’s use of speed gel in the Critérium du Dauphiné team time trial last week. Using the substance with white balls on their legs, the riders placed third among traditionally strong teams in the 35-kilometer stage in Louhans-Châteaurenaud. Team Sky won ahead of BMC Racing. Lotto-Soudal placed ahead of Mitchelton-Scott.
It was a good sign, since the 2018 Tour de France features a team time trial of the same distance on stage 3. Stage 20 in Espelette is an individual time trial of 31km.
Riders will race without any speed gels, though. The UCI and its technical specialist Jean-Christophe Péraud said, “It’s prohibited until further notice.”
“I received a call from Jean-Christophé Péraud, he told me that the rules will be adjusted in the coming weeks,” Team Lotto-Soudal manager Marc Sergeant told Het Nieuwsblad.
“I told Péraud that Team Sky still uses with those skinsuits. Those strips on their shoulders and arms work to reduce the air resistance at high speed. He said that he would also tackle that, but Péraud said we should not put anything on our riders’ legs with the intention of riding faster.”
Sky started a small storm last year in Düsseldorf, the start of the 2017 Tour de France, when its riders raced the time trial with its vortex skinsuits. The Castelli TT Suit 4.0 featured patches with patterned nodes to enhance airflow.
The team still uses them. Froome donned the kit in the Giro d’Italia time trials last month on his way to overall victory.
“It’s an aerodynamic gel,” Lotto-Soudal doctor Servaas Bingé said. “It’s Speed Gel. The gel reduces air resistance.
“The higher your speed, the more profit you can get from aerodynamics, all small bits help and we try to support our riders in any way, so the speed gel provides an aerodynamic advantage and perhaps also a mental advantage.”
“The rules are pretty vague, but in principle you cannot add anything to increase aerodynamics if it is not necessary,” Teun van Erp, a scientist at Team Sunweb, told NOS.
“Ribbing in the clothing is a gray area because you have to wear clothing. With that gel I see no other point than to promote aerodynamics. As I interpret the rules, this is not allowed. But that’s what I thought of Sky’s ‘bubbles’ too.”
Already in Tour de Suisse team time trial Saturday, Lotto-Soudal raced without the gel. The team placed 12th behind winner BMC Racing.
“In three days, the UCI said Speed Gel is not allowed, but Chris Froome’s salbutamol file has been dragging since last year’s world championship,” Sergeant added.
“I think that’s all a bit strange. If we don’t get a satisfactory answer, then perhaps we take it to the Tour.”
The UCI had yet to reply to VeloNews’s request for comment when this article was published.