The UCI introduces new measures to promote safety at road races

By PressCPA
Giugno 12, 2024

Meeting from 10 to 12 June in Aigle, Switzerland, the Management Committee of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) took several decisions to strengthen the safety of riders (men and women) at road races.

These decisions are based on recommendations drawn up within SafeR, the new structure dedicated to safety and which includes representatives of all cycling’s stakeholders.

The main measures are as follows:

  • introduction of a yellow card system,
  • restriction on wearing and using earpieces in races,
  • modification of the so-called ‘three-kilometre’ (or ‘sprint zone’) rule,
  • simplification of the method for calculating time gaps in stages with a bunch sprint finish.

All these changes will be subject to test periods, at upcoming races and until the end of the season, in collaboration with stakeholders, before being finalised and implemented.

In parallel with these measures, and with regard to the organisation of human resources dedicated to safety and linked to SafeR’s activities, the Management Committee welcomed the creation of the position of SafeR Safety Analyst. The role of SafeR Safety Analysts, nominated by each of the stakeholders, is to review the security measures put in place by organisers, particularly with regard to problematic sections of the race routes. This will include recommendations on race routes and risk mitigation measures, as well as best practice training. They will also review practices and policies within teams to ensure that they take responsibility for the safety of their riders, in both racing and training. Analysts will also actively use the UCI Race Incident Database to ensure accurate collection of factors contributing to race incidents and crashes. The collection of accurate and relevant data will help SafeR to propose corrective measures based on facts and objective data, to communicate best practices for organisers and teams, and to make recommendations for changes to the regulations and organisers’ guides.

In addition, SafeR will work with partners recognised for their scientific expertise in the field to carry out studies on various pieces of equipment (for example hookless rims with tubeless tyres, wheel profiles, skinsuits and helmets), in order to define what measures might be relevant to reducing the risk of accidents and falls. The results of these studies could lead to new regulations and, in the case of equipment used in competition, the revision of specifications for such equipment or the introduction of specifications for equipment that is not currently regulated, and the reinforcement of procedures for authorisation prior to its use in competition.

System of yellow cards

system of “yellow cards” will be introduced from 1st August 2024 (trial phase until 31 December 2024) at men’s and women’s professional road races. These yellow cards will represent a sanction but will not physically exist. They will, however, be listed in the race communiqué published after the finish.

This initiative will have a dissuasive effect on anyone present in the race convoy (riders, Sport Directors, other drivers and motorbike riders, etc.) who might engage in behaviour that could jeopardise the safety of the event. In addition, the system will aim to make all these people more responsible by introducing the monitoring of bad conduct over time and consequently encouraging respectful behaviour.

Race Commissaires will therefore be able to issue these yellow cards for any offence likely to pose a risk to the safety of the competition. The 21 race incidents concerned are listed in article 2.12.007 of the UCI Regulations. It will be possible to impose yellow cards either in addition to other sanctions set out in the table of race incidents, or as a stand-alone sanction. It is important to note that the table of race incidents already provides for the possibility to disqualify a rider (termed a red card in other sports). This possibility is not affected by the introduction of the yellow card system.

The development of this measure follows extensive consultation in 2023 within SafeR. It was also approved by the UCI Road Commission and the Professional Cycling Council respectively in February and March 2024 before the regulations were approved by the UCI Management Committee. The system will be presented to riders and teams before its introduction, and will be the subject of educational initiatives led by SafeR, which will be put in place over the coming months.

The period from 1st August to 31 December 2024 will serve as a test period during which no additional penalties related to yellow cards will be imposed: indeed, yellow cards may already be used in UCI WorldTour and UCI Women’s WorldTour events, but no disqualifications or suspensions for accumulating yellow cards will be handed out during this period. The existing sanctions, also listed in the above-mentioned table of race incidents in the UCI Regulations, will continue to be imposed; these include fines, deduction of UCI points, relegations, and disqualifications. At the end of the 2024 season, a full evaluation of the yellow card system will be carried out by SafeR before being presented to the Professional Cycling Council then to the UCI Management Committee.

From 1st January 2025, however, sanctions will be imposed for the accumulation of yellow cards. In addition, the system will be extended to events in the UCI ProSeries (Men and Women Elite), the Olympic Games, the UCI World Championships (Men and Women Elite and Under 23) and Continental Championships (Men and Women Elite and Under 23).

The UCI shall maintain a database of yellow cards issued in accordance with articles 2.12.003bis and 2.12.007 of the UCI Regulations. From 1st January 2025, subject to modification following the evaluation of the test period, the accumulation of yellow cards over a defined period will result in a suspension as follows (see also infographic below):

  • during the same race, anyone who receives two yellow cards will be disqualified from that race and suspended for 7 days, starting on the day following receipt of the second yellow card;
  • anyone who receives three yellow cards within a thirty-day period will be suspended for 14 days, starting on the day following receipt of the third yellow card;
  • anyone who receives six yellow cards within a one-year period shall be suspended for 30 days, starting on the day following receipt of the sixth yellow card;
  • a yellow card that has been taken into account for the imposition of a period of ineligibility shall no longer be taken into account in the future.

Rule amendments linked to the yellow card system (applicable as of 1st August 2024)

Restriction on wearing and using earpieces in races

Still on the subject of improving safety at road races, the UCI has decided to test the effects of a restriction on wearing and using earpieces in races this year. The measure will be tested in selected professional one-day races and stage races. The list of events and stages concerned has yet to be defined.

This decision is based on discussions on the subject within SafeR, which led to the conclusion that earpieces could be both a source of distraction for riders and a physical hazard because the radio units are mounted on their backs, and represent a risk when a large number of teams are simultaneously asking their riders to move up to the front of the race.

Feedback from all stakeholders will be gathered in order to study the effects of restricting the use of earpieces and to consider studying other measures that could lead to a change in the way earpieces are used, for example limiting their use to two riders per team.

An overall evaluation will be carried out within SafeR at the end of the season, before being presented to the Professional Cycling Council then to the UCI Management Committee with a view to a decision on the use of earpieces in the future.

Modification of the so-called ‘three kilometre’ (or ‘sprint zone’) rule

The UCI has decided to allow organisers and other stakeholders to request, on a trial basis, a modification of the so-called ‘three kilometre’ (or ‘sprint zone’) rule (article 2.6. 027 of the UCI Regulations) which applies when a race enters the zone leading to the final sprint and according to which, in the event of a duly noted incident (for example a fall, mechanical problem or puncture) in the last three kilometres of a road stage (excluding summit finishes), a rider affected is credited with the time of the rider or riders with whom he was riding at the time of the incident. The organiser (or other stakeholder) who so requests may, if justified, obtain an extension of the distance to be taken into account under the aforementioned rule, which may be increased to a maximum of five kilometres. Any change must be agreed before the start of the race.

The three-kilometre distance was introduced in 2005, having previously been one kilometre.

This measure is intended to take account of the increase in traffic calming infrastructure  sources of danger for the pelotons – within an ever-greater radius of the race finish sites. Extending the zone in which the rule applies, when necessary, will reduce the pressure on riders during the phase of the race leading up to the final sprint.

Simplification of the method for calculating time gaps at stages with a bunch sprint finish

In the same vein, the method of calculating time gaps for stages with an expected bunch sprint finish  introduced in 2018  was also examined by SafeR. Currently, according to the rule for calculating time gaps, the same time is allocated to riders in the same group as long as no more than one second separates two riders following each other. In other words, if there is a gap of one second or more between two riders, the time of the riders in the second group is calculated on the basis of the gap separating the first rider in each group at the finish line. Under the special protocol in force since 2018, at the request of the event organiser, the time gap calculation may be extended to three seconds, but only for riders in the main peloton. SafeR has issued a recommendation to test the application of this special three-second time gap calculation regime to all groups in the race, with the sole exception of clearly established breakaways. This systematisation of the three-second rule is intended to simplify the calculation of time gaps at stages with an expected bunch sprint, to relieve the pressure on riders not directly involved in the sprint and to allow them to leave a certain margin with the front of the race – three seconds corresponding to a gap of 50 metres rather than 17 metres for a one-second gap – and to thus reduce unnecessary risk-taking, particularly for riders aiming for the overall classification.

These last two rules (so-called ‘three kilometre’ or ‘sprint zone’ rule and method for calculating time gaps at stages with a bunch sprint finish) will only be able to come into force at the end of a test phase organised during certain stages of the next Tour de France with an expected sprint finish.

UCI President David Lappartient said: “The safety of riders is a priority for the UCI, and it was with this in mind that we created SafeR, a structure dedicated to safety, bringing together the main stakeholders in professional road cycling. I am convinced that the measures announced today, which are the fruit of the work of this new body and which affect many aspects of the road racing ecosystem, will enable us to make progress towards a safer sport.”

The President of the Association Internationale des Organisateurs de Courses Cyclistes (AIOCC) – men and women – Christian Prudhomme said: “SafeR demonstrates that all the cycling families can work together to improve safety, which is fundamental to the future of our sport. One of the major missions of road race organisers is securing the public spaces we require for our champions to express themselves. These latest initiatives show that our regulations can evolve as our sport continues to develop and face new challenges. With certain measures already being introduced for the Tour de France, this is proof of the collaboration to improve safety within the cycling families.”

The President of Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA) – body representing men and women riders – Adam Hansen declared: “SafeR has provided a platform for me to address the riders’ number one concern: safety in races. Feedback has shown that the majority of riders wanted the 3km rule extended to reduce stress during hectic race finales. I am thrilled that this will be tested at some sprint finals at the Tour de France, and I thank the UCI and ASO for allowing it.

“Additionally, a large survey conducted last year indicated the need for a yellow card system in cycling, which will be tested in the coming months before being implemented next year. These initial measures recommended by SafeR to the UCI demonstrate that riders’ requests are being heard and acted upon. It is crucial, and we are making significant progress in this area. There is still much work to be done, and I look forward to continuing the solid work that has begun.”

The President of the Association Internationale des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels (AIGCP) Brent Copeland said: “The professional teams play a big part in contributing towards safety and we take this responsibility very seriously in continuously looking at making solid and productive improvement by working together with SafeR. We are therefore delighted with the measures to improve safety adopted by the UCI Management Committee. They demonstrate that the collaboration of the various players of professional road cycling within SafeR makes it possible to develop and implement innovative measures for the benefit of all members of the peloton. The AIGCP looks forward to continuing its work in this direction.”

UCI press release

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