Bont comes out fighting on UCI's Crono shoe ban

Skinsuits, TT helmets and aero shorts to be banned at Giro? Probably not

by Tony Farrelly   May 6, 2011  

Bont Crono banned.png

Bont, the Australian cycle shoe maker whose Crono time trial shoe was last week banned by the UCI are not going to take it lying down. "We are going to fight this, treat me differently and discriminate against my company and I won't accept it," the company's chief executive, Steve Nemeth told road.cc.

Bont argues that the UCI has unfairl singled their shoe out and that if the UCI enforced the rule under which the Crono was banned evenly all aero clothing would be banned. Mr Nemeth still hopes to resolve the situation amicably and has even offered to present Bont's case in person to the UCI (an offer the UCI have yet to respond to), but having taken legal advice he believes that if forced to go to law the company has a strong case to have the ban reversed on the grounds of both restraint of trade and an unfair application of the UCI's own rules.

The Crono was banned under section 1.3.033 of the UCI's technical regulations which says:

“It is forbidden to wear non-essential items of clothing or items designed to influence the performances of a rider such as reducing air resistance or modifying the body of the rider (compression, stretching, support).

Items of clothing or equipment may be considered essential where weather conditions make them appropriate for the safety or the health of the rider. In this case, the nature and texture of the clothing or equipment must be clearly and solely justified by the need to protect the rider from bad weather conditions. Discretion in this respect is left to the race commissaires.

Equipment (helmets, shoes, jerseys, shorts, etc.) worn by the rider may not be adapted to serve any other purpose apart from that of clothing or safety by the addition or incorporation of mechanical or electronic systems which are not approved as technical innovations under article 1.3.004.”

Nemeth points out that the UCI have already set a precedent by not enforcing their rules on clothing, rules he, and many others (and presumably a large part of the UCI too) see as being hopelessly outdated anyway.

Tomorrow the Giro d'Italia starts with the team time trial, skin suits and aero helmets will be much in evidence seemingly without a murmur of complaint from the UCI. In the wake of  Johan Van Summeren's victory at Paris Roubaix Castelli have made much of the performance enhancing properties of their Free Aero Bib Shorts – were the UCI to follow through on the logic of the Bont ban Van Summeren's win would now be in doubt. 

Given that the UCI forbids clothing that "reduces air resistance" it is an indication of the weird logic by which the organisation operates that one of its corporate sponsors, Santini is a renowned maker of aero skin suits and shoe covers, while another Shimano, produces highly regarded aero optimised componentry – the sport's governing body would appear to be having it both ways.

Shoe covers are a good example of the nonsensical nature of the UCI's position, designed to protect shoes from bad weather aero version are much in evidence in the velodrome – places not noted for either rain or mud so it's difficult to see how they can be "solely justified by the need to protect the rider from bad weather conditions." The UCI's get out here is that "Discretion in this respect is left to the race commissaires."

It would seem that while commissaires have little problem with weather protection for indoor cyclists they do have a problem with Bont's Crono shoe. Bont understands that their problem with the UCI started at the recent Track World Championships in Appledoorn when the representative of a national federation complained to the commissaires about the Crono shoes worn by a Russian rider to a silver medal position – the commissaires didn't like the shoe and referred the matter upwards.

As ever with the UCI it would seem that the politics of the track and the need for the UCI to keep national federations happy will have an impact on the rest of cycle sport, the cycling industry and the wider cycling public – the UCI's clampdown on innovative bike design is ascribed by many in the know to pressure from some national federations put out by what they viewed as the technologically assisted rise of the GB track team.

The UCI has yet to explain to Bont or anyone else how it justifies banning the Crono shoe while not at the same time banning aero helmets (the new Giro Selector even has interchangeable aero tail sections), skin suits, compression clothing, shoe covers, aero bib shorts etc etc. Perhaps tellingly the UCI did not issue a press statement when they informed Bont of the Crono ban, in fact Bont didn't even know there was a problem until the company received an email to the contact address on their website from the UCI telling them that the shoe was banned.

Understandably Steven Nemeth is less than impressed:

"The only consistent thing about the UCI is how inconsistent they are." He also condemned their communication with his company as "astoundingly vague, no warning, no email, no phone call, they went to our website and sent us an email."

The outcome of the UCI's action against Bont and the company's response will be looked at with interest by the rest of the cycling industry and the cycling public and judging by the comments on Bont's Facebook page sympathies lie firmly with the Aussie shoe maker.

13 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Another reason why pro teams want to ditch the UCI.

Crazy ruling without foundation.

posted by gazzaputt [181 posts]
6th May 2011 - 11:51

4 Likes

Surely they banned the shoe on grounds of taste and decency. That's the fugliest shoe I've ever seen.

Chuffy's picture

posted by Chuffy [186 posts]
6th May 2011 - 11:54

6 Likes

I can barely believe that the cycling world still respects and operates under the UCI, from the days of Graeme Obree to the radio ban to the banning of a pair of shoes, they only serve to show how ridiculous they are.

In much the same way that Formula One motorsport breeds improvements and enhancements in the everyday motor car, professional cycling's hunt for ever decreasing marginal gains leads to better technology on all bikes. Just look at the now almost ubiquitous use of carbon fibre and lightweight helmets.

Now I could understand if they looked to curtail the proliferation of aerodynamic equipment in order to make competitive racing more affordable for more people; but nowhere to they state this is the reasoning.

The rule under which the shoe was banned is completely at odds with it's level of enforcement. If you read the rule everything from aero helmets to skinsuits and shoe covers would be summarily banned. As the CEO of Bont said, it's discriminating against certain products and certain companies. Seemingly at random, but more likely at the whim of another company that provides more funds for the UCI.

Rules should exist to help level the playing field and make it clear where the boundaries lie; the UCI has failed to do that with such a vague ruling.

posted by italiafirenze [68 posts]
6th May 2011 - 12:34

5 Likes

I'm on the UCI's side here, with just another manufacturer trying to buck the system, not withstanding the arrogant attitude of their chief executive.

posted by Karbon Kev [677 posts]
6th May 2011 - 15:26

3 Likes

Karbon Kev are you Pat McQuaid in disguise? The point is if this shoe is outside the rules so is most of the clothing currently worn in the peloton - and all of the stuff worn in time trials, so why isn't the UCI banning that lot?

Steven Nemeth, their chief executive didn't come across as arrogant at all when I spoke to him, he wasn't even as angry as I would have been if some twerp in a blazer was trying to harm my business on a whim.

Yet again the UCI aren't enforcing their rules uniformly across the board – just when they feel like enforcing them. And then there's the fact that their tech regs are patently stupid and backward looking when it comes to innovation anyway.

If the UCI are so keen on races being pure athletic contests maybe they should just chuck the bikes away and get them to run… in bare feet of course.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4144 posts]
6th May 2011 - 16:10

4 Likes

The loose cannon is on the move again.

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [957 posts]
6th May 2011 - 16:15

5 Likes

Ah, bang goes my idea of clipless winkle pickers. Better not launch those then.

The bottom line to me is that this ban makes no sense at all and I wholeheartedly agree with Bont's Chief Exec..

An aerodynamic shoe will make not one jot of difference in shaving time.

What about body shape, that's far more important (by far an away the greatest area of drag on a bicycle is the rider, not the bicycle and associated accessories as some would have us believe)? Now, body shape is an interesting area. How about a limit for the air the body displaces, or even better, drag coefficient factors. If a rider falls either under or over these limits then they're disqualified. I can see it now at the start line - "Hang on so and so, you can't take part as your legs are too thin and too aerodynamic. We also see that your teardrop shaped tummy just isn't the right shape for a cyclist. It needs to be as flat as a board as do all forward facing areas".

posted by 5339 [21 posts]
6th May 2011 - 17:40

5 Likes

I think Floyd Landis just found the perfect shoes to wear should he decide to defend himself in person when the UCI's defamation case comes to court. That and shoot up saline solution every five minutes.

posted by handlebarcam [529 posts]
6th May 2011 - 17:56

4 Likes

Men in Blazers dreaming of 'the good old days'.

They are found in any organisation - FIFA is another excellent example. Sadly, they rise to the surface due to the fact that, unlike most who protest about them, they are willing to get involved with organising things like races, matches etc.

Decisions like this won't stop happening until people who can apply commonsense are willing to get involved.

Ticktock

posted by Michael5 [121 posts]
6th May 2011 - 18:24

3 Likes

Mc Queasy and Co trying to create a furore so that we don't notice what else is going !
Met the roads.cc photographer at the riot that was the team presentaation tonight in Torino !
Had the Mayor of Torino on my bike so there will be front page photos coming ! Elections don't effect hiom as he has completed his second term .
National Gov. Minister for Labour nearly got lynched at the end of his speech at the Presentation .
TDF crowds are big but this one was unbelievable ! More news on my blog when i can do a post .

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

skippy's picture

posted by skippy [383 posts]
6th May 2011 - 19:31

5 Likes

Is that the same Steve Nemeth who invented the dimple- tailed javelin which plummeted less steeply and broke world records?

posted by wild man [283 posts]
6th May 2011 - 20:32

4 Likes

wild man wrote:
Is that the same Steve Nemeth who invented the dimple- tailed javelin which plummeted less steeply and broke world records?

Yeah! so cyclists with dimples will have an unfair advantage in time trials, ban them.

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [957 posts]
6th May 2011 - 21:28

1 Like

I love the UCI it's almost as if they don't think of what there new rule implementation might have. Giro's website is brilliant for the tt helmet, no info on safety all aero information.

posted by miffed [163 posts]
6th May 2011 - 21:57

4 Likes