Cycling’s governing body, the UCI, has announced that it plans to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Team RadioShack following the delay to the start of Sunday’s final stage of the Tour de France when its riders lined up wearing special black jerseys publicising Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong charity instead of their usual red and silver outfits.
With race commissaries telling the team’s riders that they would be forbidden from starting the stage if they did not change into their usual kits as required by UCI regulations – a stance that drew fire from team director Johan Bruyneel on Twitter – the stage was held up for some 20 minutes in Longjumeau before it headed off to Paris for the traditional finale on the Champs-Elysées.
It’s likely that Armstrong and his team mates suspected that the Livestrong jerseys, emblazoned with the number 28 on the back to signify the estimated 28 million people worldwide affected by cancer, would attract the attention of officials, especially given that regulation kit was readily on hand in the team car.
Equally, given that this was the seven-times-champion’s final participation in the race he once dominated, Armstrong, who according to local reports failed to sign on for his last ever Tour de France stage, would have known that he’d be receiving more attention than usual at the start from TV cameramen and press photographers, and so it proved as he seemed to take forever to change over his race numbers.
The resulting publicity for Livestrong, of course, on perhaps the biggest day on the cycling calendar with events screened live worldwide, was priceless.
In a statement, the governing body said that it “regrets that an initiative for a cause as worthy as the fight against cancer was not coordinated beforehand with the Commissaires and organisers of the event. This could have been done whilst remaining within the rules.”
The statement continued: “Team RadioShack’s incorrect behaviour led to a 20-minute delay to the start of the final stage, which could have disrupted the televised coverage of the race, placing the Commissaires under the obligation to impose a fine on each rider and the team managers.”
Following the stage, as they lined up to take the podium after winning the team classification, the RadioShack riders were back in the Livestrong jerseys, which on their left breast carried the flags of the nations of the team members, arranged as though they were medal ribbons.
This too, will be the subject of UCI investigation, with the governing body saying that the team had worn “an incorrect uniform on the podium for the protocol ceremony having been instructed not to.”
While Sunday’s stage, won by HTC-Columbia’s Mark Cavendish, was under way, team director Johan Bruyneel had told his followers on Twitter exactly what he thought of the decision not to allow the riders the race in the black jerseys, tweeting: “Ok people! Now it's official! To be a race commisar, you don't need brains but only know the rules! Their motto: "c'est le reglement!" [It’s the rule]
That comment, too, drew the attention of the UCI, which said that it “deplores the declarations made by Mr Johan Bruyneel who gravely offended all the Commissaires working in cycling. His remarks are utterly unacceptable, “ adding that he would be “be called upon to answer for his comments before the UCI Disciplinary Commission.”
The UCI added that “as the action of Team RadioShack was inspired by the desire to raise public awareness of the breadth of the global fight against cancer, the UCI has decided that any fines levied as a result of this matter would be donated to the Ligue suisse contre le cancer,” the Swiss cancer charity.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.