Blog: Michael Hutchinson

Time trialling is in the headlines. And for the best, traditional time trialling reasons – someone somewhere is getting disqualified for a rule no one understands. It’s like the best bits of the 1960s come back to life.

The someone is Bradley Wiggins, who won the Kent Valley CC 10 last weekend in the second (or third – depends how you count) fastest time ever, and now faces having his victory snatched away.

The problem is that he used a front wheel that contravenes regulation 14(g): ‘Deep section rims, tri-spoke and wheels of a similar design may be used. The front wheel must have 45% of the surface area open.’

(I don’t wish to invite mockery, but I didn’t have to look that up.)

Essentially, his wheel had too deep a rim. It’s a safety reg – first and foremost it bans front discs, which are all but uncontrollable in crosswinds. I’ve never ridden a front disc outside, but nevertheless managed to crash while doing nothing more dangerous than wheeling my pursuit bike across the car park outside Manchester Velodrome. The wind caught the front disc, the bike swerved into my legs, and I fell over.

So I have every sympathy with that aspect of it, and indeed, with the idea that a tiny hole in the middle of a disc isn’t going to make much difference.

But the problem with the reg as it stands is that it’s almost unenforceable – it’s often not possible to calculate accurately the open area of a three or four-spoke wheel without the manufacturer’s CAD data, and there is no reason on earth for them to willingly hand over the means of having their product declared unusable for a potential market.

At the moment Cycling Time Trials is several months into trying to decide if one particular wheel is legal or not. Months. So exactly how you’re supposed to figure it out in the real world – in a shop, or at the start line, or even in a subsequent hearing – is beyond me. As it is, most riders including, I assume, Bradley don’t even know the reg exists, never mind how to deal with it.

All the same, I would imagine he’ll get over the heartbreak of having his win taken away, and will already have moved on to worrying about things like, oh I don’t know, the Tour prologue. Where he can use pretty much any front wheel he likes.