Officials from world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, just banned riders from sleeping in motorhomes during bike races, including the upcoming Tour de France.
On Friday the UCI posted the new rule on its website (emphasis added):
In addition, the UCI Management Committee voted the amendment of article 2.2.010 of the UCI Regulations. The article now clarifies the requirement of rider accommodation during stage races: “In all road stage races on the international calendar, the organisers must cover the subsistence expenses of the teams from the night before the start to the final day; riders must stay in the hotels provided by the organiser throughout the entire duration of the race”. The decision was made in order to reaffirm absolute fairness between all riders. The amended article comes into force immediately.
To be clear, the rule doesn’t say anything about motorhomes per se, but it effectively prohibits them as it says “riders must stay in the hotels.” This is the RV in question:
The rule apparently came after a rider in May’s Tour of Italy slept in the Fleetwood Excursion motorhome instead of in a hotel with the rest of his teammates, as riders have traditionally done.
That rider was Australia’s Richie Porte of Sky Pro Cycling, a team that’s well known for its “marginal gains” approach to performance.
Sky is a leading outfit when it comes to finding new and clever ways to improve performance, especially in small but effective ways. It was the first team to use a motorhome at a race, VeloNews reported.
The team’s reasoning for having its leader stay in an RV was explained by manager Dave Brailsford, via Reuters:
“Even though we have our own mattresses and pillows, when you change hotels every night, you must unpack and pack every day and go into a hotel without knowing what it’s like … I’ve been thinking if you didn’t have to do all of that and if you have your own environment and privacy, and if you have your own bed. It seemed there was a logic to try to see if works.”
According to CyclingWeekly, the RV in question is an older model that’s registered in the UK and retails for £130,000, or about $US200,000.
Brailsford elaborated on the use of the RV with VeloNews:
“We are interested in sleep. It’s a big topic in sports science. We’re interested diets related to sleep and other factors related to sleep and recovery.”
Brailsford and his team believe that a rider faces less stress and unknowns, and has guaranteed cleanliness by returning to the same room, or in this case motorhome, each night to sleep. In a three-week race, where every percentage point counts, this could make the difference in winning or losing. Sky calls it marginal gains.
Below are more pictures of the motorhome. It looks really clean, spacious, and comfortable.
But it and others like it are now verboten.
This time, some felt, Dave Brailsford had gone too far in his quest for marginal gains. …
[T]he motorhome was a different matter. Here was an innovation that seemed to threaten something fundamental to the culture of bike racing, and from which, once accepted and widely adopted, there could be no going back.
What it represented was an affront to the social organisation of a three-week grand tour, during which the riders stay overnight in hotels nominated by the race organisers. … The motorhome, however, is a marginal gain too far, and not only because it offends against the sport’s history.
Kenyan-born UK rider Chris Froome, a Sky teammate of Porte who won the Tour de France in 2013, wasted no time in voicing his disappointment at the new ruling by the UCI, which has come under fire on many occasions for questionable rulings and inconsistency in enforcing rules.
Froome, a favourite to win this year’s Tour, was reportedly going to stay in the motorhome during this year’s race (July 4-23), CyclingWeekly reported.
He tweeted a photo of a mattress lying on a floor in a hotel room, one that he says he had to sleep on during a past Tour.
He used the hashtag #progress sarcastically in a dig at the UCI, which is often criticised as bureaucratic and old-fashioned:
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