WOLLONGONG, Australia (VN) — Pre-race favorite Jens Verbrugghe (Belgium) was forced to change bikes ahead of the junior time trial Tuesday at the UCI Road World Championships after the UCI deemed the setup wasn’t within junior-specific rules.
When Verbrugghe’s Lapierre bike went for a last-minute check by the UCI shortly before his ride, it was found that it was mounted with a 53-tooth chainring.
Juniors are still restricted to a maximum size of a 52-tooth chainring, so the young Belgian was told he would not be able to race his bike and he had to scramble to find another one.
Verbrugghe — who finished second in the junior TT at the European Championships this summer — was among the favorites for gold Tuesday.
Forced to race on a Ridley bike that he had never previously ridden, he slumped to a disappointing 26th place.
Frederik Broché, technical director of the Belgian team, told the press that it was “human error” that the wrong size chainring was mounted, and discounted anything malicious.
He explained that Verbrugghe had taken his bike for maintenance and that it is believed that the 52 chainring that he had used during the European Championships was replaced with a 53 as the smaller size is hard to come by.
The challenge in sourcing 52 chainrings is one of the reasons that the gear restrictions for juniors are being abolished from next season.
However, that rule change will not come soon enough for Verbrugghe, who is the son of ex-pro and Israel Premier Tech sport director Rik Verbrugghe.
With 120 bikes to care for during the world championships, the Belgian mechanics missed the incorrect equipment.
An earlier inspection by the UCI also failed to pick up that Verbrugghe had the wrong-sized chainring on his bike.
Verbrugghe was subsequently able to complete a recon of the course on his Lapierre bike and it wasn’t until it was too late that it was discovered.
There was nothing that he could do and he had to get on a spare federation bike, which he had never ridden before.