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Bottlegate: no automatic DQ for riders throwing water bottles as UCI softens littering penalties

Riders still won’t be able to thrown water bottles to fans, however, with governing body citing safety of competitors and spectators

The UCI has announced a softening of penalties for riders who throw away items such as water bottles and gel wrappers during races, with no automatic disqualification now applying for a first offence – although it has made it clear that bottles still cannot be thrown to fans.

The new rules came into effect on Thursday 1 April and three days later the AG2R Citroën rider Michael Schär was thrown out of the Tour of Flanders after a threw a bottle towards some spectators at the roadside.

Riders still won’t be able to thrown water bottles to fans, however, with governing body citing safety of competitors and spectators

The Swiss rider subsequently wrote on Instagram that it was being given a water bottle by a rider during a family visit to the Tour de France that had helped inspire him to become a professional cyclist.

> Rider thrown out of Tour of Flanders for tossing water bottle towards fan says being given one as a kid inspired him to become pro cyclist

But in announcing the revised sanctions today following a video meeting of the Professional Cycling Council, the UCI said that it was worried, among other things, about children trying to get too close to riders in the hope of getting a bottle.

“Throwing bottles and waste outside dedicated zones provided by the organiser for this purpose remains forbidden,” it said.

“However, the riders have the possibility to get rid of their bottles and waste by giving them to team assistants positioned on the roadside, in charge of feeding, and to the following vehicles of teams and the organisers.

“Throwing bottles to the public, in particular, is a proven danger both for the riders and the public: on multiple occasions, crashes have been caused by bottles thrown to spectators and coming back onto the road, and spectators have been injured by bottles thrown by riders into the public.

“Moreover, the UCI wants to avoid fans, notably children, trying to get close to riders during races, to avoid accidents with potentially dramatic consequences (collision with riders or vehicles in the race caravan for example).”

Outlining the revised sanctions, the UCI said:

Throwing bottles and waste outside dedicated zones for this purpose will now be sanctioned as follows:

– At a one-day rac*, the first infringement will be punished by a fine    and a deduction of UCI points (respectively 100 to 500 Swiss francs and 5    to 25 points depending on the class of event), whereas a second    infringement will result in the disqualification of the offending rider.    Previously, the regulation stipulated a fine, deduction of UCI points and    immediate disqualification from the first violation.

– At stage races, the first infringement will be punished by a fine    and a deduction of UCI points (respectively 100 to 500 Swiss francs and 5    to 25 points depending on the class of event). The second infringement will    result in a time penalty (1 minute) and the third to disqualification.    Previously, the regulation stipulated a fine, deduction of UCI points and a    30-second time penalty for the first infringement, a 2 minute time penalty    for the second infringement and disqualification for the third.

The UCI will closely monitor the respect of the revised rules. After assessment this year, it could adapt the sanctions if the riders and teams repeatedly violate the rule covering the throwing of bottles and waste outside dedicated litter zones.

The governing body said that all stakeholders had approved the new measures, which now need to be ratified, most likely this Saturday, by the UCI Management Committee.

UCI President David Lappartient said: “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.

“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,” he added.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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