Michael Schär responded to his disqualification from the Tour of Flanders under the UCI’s new anti-littering rules by telling a story. It was 1997, he wrote on his Instagram, and his family took him to the Jura mountains for a stage of the Tour de France. That day – and the bottle he got from a pro – started him on his path to professional cycling.
Schär was disqualified from the Tour of Flanders on Sunday for breaching the UCI’s new littering rules, which require riders to get rid of all trash, including bottles and food wrappers, in designated zones. Early in the race, the 16-year professional did as he has done thousands of times. He threw a bottle to a small group of fans on the side of the road.
He did so outside of one of the official litter drop-off zones, and so he was disqualified. Video of the incident shows that he almost immediately realized what he’d just done.
The rule update went into place in April 1st. Specifically, “without due care” was removed from the rule’s original language, thus banning littering everywhere except litter zones under all circumstances.
Riders may not,The updated UCI Rule 2.2.025
without due care, jettison food, bonk-bags, feeding bottles, clothes, etc. outside of the litter zones provided by the organiser.
The rules are intended to prevent the mass of bar wrappers and gel packets that are often spread across the countryside after a race, but also include rules against throwing bottles, both to prevent littering and to prevent a roadside fan from getting hurt. Schär and other pros argue that the bottle rules go to far, and are in fact counterproductive to the growth of the sport.
Schär’s response on Instagram, the story about his own trip to the Tour de France, serves to illustrate the unfortunate severity of the UCI’s new rule. He draws a line between a bottle he received as a child and his own long and successful pro career.
“This little plastic piece made my cycling addiction complete. Back home that bottle was reminding me everyday of what my dream was. I rode my yellow Team Polti bottle everyday in full pride,” he wrote.
“Now I am one of these Pros who race through all of the happy spectators. During calm moments of the race I always keep my empty bottle until I see some kids next to the road. Then I throw them gently right where they can catch it safely. Two years ago I gave a bottle to a girl next to the road. Her parents told me the girl wasn’t only happy about this bottle for a day. No, she still talks about this bottle. And maybe one day she becomes a cyclist as well.
“These are moments why I love our sport. Nobody ever can take that away from us. We are the most approachable sport who gives bottles along the way. Simple as that. Simple is Cycling.”
Other riders responded in a similar manner. Alex Dowsett used his Instagram to tell the story of a bottle he gave to a boy named Arlo, and how the, “bottle/bidon/piece of ‘litter’ has connected a young boy with a sport, a young boy with a form of exercise, a young boy with a charity and a young boy with the knowledge of a condition he would likely never have heard about until this bottle/bidon/piece of litter.”