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UCI eases rules, but riders can still be disqualified for tossing bottles to fans

Changes come in wake of outcry following disqualification of Michael Schär at the Tour of Flanders for throwing bottle.

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It’s now “two strikes and you’re out” if a rider tosses a water bottle to fans during a one-day race.

The UCI tweaked its so-called “April 1 rules” Wednesday following an outcry among the peloton and fans in the wake of a few riders getting the boot for tossing bottles during one-day races earlier this month.

Under the latest revision, riders will no longer be immediately kicked out of races for tossing bottles to fans or outside dedicated “litter” zones after the UCI amended its rules.

Instead, changes mean riders in a one-day race will be handed a fine the first time they’re caught tossing a bottle, with punishment upgraded to disqualification on the second offense.

Read also: Tour of Flanders: UCI ejects Michael Schär for illegal bottle toss

In a stage race, the first offense will be a fine, the second a one-minute time penalty, and a third offense will see a rider kicked out of the race.

The new rules are part of a swath of safety measures introduced by the UCI last month.

The “water bottle” rules immediately caused controversy when Swiss rider Michael Schär was disqualified from the Tour of Flanders for throwing a bottle towards fans in a non-designated litter area. Letizia Borghesi was also kicked out of the women’s Tour of Flanders for tossing a bottle.

Some thought the punishment was too harsh for the offense, especially considering cycling has a long history of riders sharing water bottles with fans lining the route.

Despite outcry from both riders and fans — some dubbed it “BottleGate” — the rules stipulate that riders can only pass bottles to fans if they directly hand them to them. Otherwise, they must get rid of it in a designated “litter” area, or pass it to a team member on the side of the road or in a race vehicle.

Read also: The UCI ejected Michael Schär from the Tour of Flanders for throwing a bottle. Is this overreach or the right call?

“Throwing bottles to the public, in particular, is a proven danger both for the riders and the public,” the UCI said in a statement. “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.

“Moreover, the UCI wants to avoid fans, notably children, trying to get close to riders during races, to avoid accidents with potentially dramatic consequences.”

The new rules begin April 17, ahead of the Ardennes classics.