Road

UCI to impose stricter rules for finish-line barriers, assess safety of ‘super tuck’ descending

The UCI approved new rules that officials believe will make race finish lines safer, six months after a crash at the Tour of Poland called into question the overall safety of sprint finishes.

The UCI announced Thursday a series of rule changes to improve rider safety, specifically around finish lines.

After three days of video-conferences, the UCI management committee and “cycling’s families” consisting of teams, riders, and organizers came to an agreement on what measures to implement to create a safer environment for racing.

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Regulations were approved to specify the type and kind of finish-zone route-barriers, weighting to secure barriers, and barrier positioning requirements. These measures have been introduced to lessen the chance of serious injury should a crash occur. The implementation of the new regulations for race barricades for events expected to conclude with bunch sprints is immediate.

The UCI is developing a set of standards for the specifications of barricades to be used in race finish zones and will adopt the new standards for 2022, with scheduling flexibility to accommodate the demands of different races and events.

Also to be undertaken is the evaluation of specific risks involved in particular race routes several weeks prior to the start of an event.

Following the life-threatening crash of Fabio Jakobsen of Deceuninck-Quick-Step in stage 1 of the 2020 Tour of Poland, riders and teams called upon the UCI to improve rider safety.

Jakobsen hit a barrier along the side of the route when Dylan Groenewegen bumped him in the closing meters of the race. Jakobsen hit a course barrier and was stopped by a concrete pillar after careening off of an official at 70kph. The Dutch rider sustained life-threatening injuries and was put into a medically-induced coma to aid his initial recovery.

Several months later, Chloé Dygert lost control of her bike while racing in the individual time trial at the 2020 UCI world road championships. The American hit an unprotected roadside fence, just missing a padded section of fence which had been put into place should a crash occur. Dygert sustained a deep laceration to her knee when she hit the unprotected metal barrier. She is expected to return to racing in time for the Tokyo Olympics.

Following the Tour of Poland incident, there were calls to evaluate how the UCI and events can make racing safer. Suggestions for racing “lanes” for events with expected bunch sprint finishes were made, as well as to changing the types of roadside barricades, so that barricade “feet” would not protrude onto the roadway, and possibly ensnare riders.

The creation of a safety manager for UCI-approved road events has been introduced. This position will be first filled by Richard Chassot of Switzerland, a former professional cyclist and Tour de Romandie event organizer. Chassot stepped down from his position as director general of the AIOCC to avoid any conflicts of interest between riders and the UCI.

The governing body is also examining on-the-bike positions, specifically sitting on the top tube, in order to determine if rule changes are necessary.

“A study by Belgian engineer Bert Blocken estimated a 9 percent the speed gain from the so-called ‘Froome position,’” reports the AFP. “Failure to comply with these provisions will be the subject of warnings from the part of the commissioners, first in an educational framework, then systematic sanctions (up to and including exclusion from competition) from April 1, 2021.”

Other measures approved in the February 3-5 meeting included changes to race convoy vehicle requirements, including permitting of race vehicle operators which accounts for stricter vehicle operator review, logging of vehicle operator hours, and pre-race briefing of convoy vehicle operators.

The UCI is also reinforcing regulations concerning rider in-race conduct such as where and how bottles may be discarded. The UCI plans to implement trash-collection zones each 30-40km, so riders can dispose of empty bottles in a respectful and safe way.