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By VeloNews Interactive wire services
The wearing of a hard-shell helmet in elite men’s races is to be made compulsory, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) said on Friday.
The move, which takes effect in time for the start of the Giro d’Italia in May, comes after the death of Kazakh rider Andrei Kivilev from head injuries at Paris-Nice in March.
“The International Cycling Union (UCI) announces that as from 5 May 2003 it will be mandatory to wear a hard-shell helmet in Elite Men’s events for classes 4 and above,” the UCI said in a statement.
“This decision was taken in agreement with all parties represented in the Professional Cycling Council (PCC) who support this initiative although some divergences have been expressed by some of its members.”
The final stumbling block to the new regulation was overcome on Friday when the PCC backed the proposed rule changes at a meeting in Brussels.
Under the new rules, which take effect a day after the completion of the ongoing Tour de Romandie, riders will be allowed to use their own discretion in the final five kilometers of races with summit finishes, but will otherwise be subject to fines of up to 10,000 francs (7,400 dollars) – as well as being stripped of 50 ranking points – should they go bareheaded.
The UCI have asked riders to limit their use of “individual freedom'” in removing their helmets and not to oppose the new rules.
The statement added: “Underlining that this decision has received full support from its principal leaders in the field, the UCI is conscious that a small number of riders invoke the ‘individual freedom’ to oppose the obligation to wear a helmet.
“Whilst respecting their opinion, the UCI invites them to reflect on the consequences this attitude can generate.”
Using helmets had previously only been a “permanent recommendation” from the UCI after a proposal to make the wearing of helmets mandatory provoked a riders’ strike in 1991.