UCI set to soften bottle throw rule after Flanders controversy

A soigneur ready to hand off a bottle at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

by Dane Cash

photography by Kristof Ramon

Less than two weeks after new rules went into effect that levy harsh penalties on riders for discarding their water bottles in non-designated zones, the UCI has announced that it is set to amend its regulations.

Since April 1, riders have faced the potential of disqualification from one-day races when getting rid of water bottles in non-designated areas. Three days after the new rules went into effect, Michael Schär and Letizia Borghesi were disqualified from the Tour of Flanders after throwing bottles outside of designated zones. Many in the pro peloton expressed frustration with the situation.

On Wednesday, the UCI said that the Professional Cycling Council (PCC), which comprises representatives of riders, teams, organizers, and the UCI, had met via video conference in conjunction with the UNIO (which represents women’s teams) and the CPA Women to discuss the new regulations. In a statement, the UCI said that the various stakeholders “reaffirmed their support for the safety plan adopted by the UCI Management Committee on 4 February, and notably for the measures concerning the discarding of bottles and waste,” but supported changes to the sanctions imposed on those breaking the rules.

As such, discarding water bottles outside of designated zones will remain prohibited, but assuming the UCI Management Committee approves the plan, amended penalties are expected to go into effect on April 17.

First infringements at one-day races will now be punished only by a fine and deduction of UCI points, while a second infringement will now lead to immediate disqualification. First infringements at stage races will also be punished by a fine and a deduction of UCI points, while a second infringement will be punished with a time penalty, and a third infringement will be punished with disqualification.

“The implementation of measures in 2021 aiming to reinforce rider safety is the object of careful assessment, and the UCI has pursued its consultations with all concerned,” said UCI President David Lappartient in a statement. “Following these numerous exchanges with the different stakeholders, it was judged appropriate to adapt the sanctions for the new rules concerning the discarding of bottles and waste outside dedicated litter zones. The UCI is pleased that a solution acceptable to all parties could be found, which maintains the essential: the safety of riders and the public and cycling’s environmental responsibility.”