Ellen Van Dijk hugging Letizia Paternoster at Gent-Wevelgem.

The UCI takes ‘no pleasure’ in asking riders not to hug

The UCI has confirmed its request that riders refrain from hugging while emphasizing that it takes "no pleasure" in doing so.

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The UCI has offered some clarification on the subject of its request that riders refrain from hugging in post-race celebrations, putting out a statement on Monday to confirm its adoption of the protocol while also emphasizing that it takes “no pleasure” in doing so.

The governing body’s position on hugging was initially made public last week in a seminar presenting the organization’s updated COVID-19 protocols, with UCI Medical Director Xavier Bigard saying, “When we show some riders congratulating each other and hugging, that’s not a good message for the fans and spectators.” On Monday, the UCI released a statement addressing the topic of “celebratory hugs” specifically.

“Although from a medical point of view the risk of contamination between members of a team bubble remains low, the UCI nevertheless considers it necessary that riders adopt the basic precautionary measures, including respecting a minimum physical distance,” the UCI said in a statement.

“Demonstrations of joy and congratulation are spontaneous and natural, and are part of the beauty of our sport. It is therefore no pleasure for the UCI to strongly recommend all concerned to refrain from hugging at the finish. However, due to the current pandemic it is essential to temporarily modify certain habits so that we can get back to normal as quickly as possible.”

The hug-focused protocol updates come amid other updates that extend COVID-19 health measures into the 2021 season, with the bubble-oriented approach remaining in place this season. Hugs are addressed in the “Ensure the protection of the team bubbles and the peloton bubble” subsection of the “Optimal conditions for organizing competitions” section of the UCI’s COVID-19 protocols.

The protocol is worded as follows: “Ask the riders to respect the basic preventive measures for stopping virus spread after crossing the finish line. Request riders not to hug teammates, other riders, or staff members when celebrating their victory. They must maintain a minimum distance between themselves and other riders, even after crossing the finish line.”