‘It’s not practical and it creates extra danger’: Tour of the Basque Country riders furious at new littering rules

The UCI and other stakeholders within the sport must come together and adapt the rules, riders claim

Riders racing at the Tour of the Basque Country have slammed new UCI rules on littering, describing them as a “massive issue” that is “more dangerous” than the norms they replaced.

Cycling’s governing body introduced a number of controversial rules on April 1, with riders being disqualified from a race if found to have thrown their water bottle and/or other waste outside of the designated zones.

While preventing and limiting litter is a move backed by the peloton, many have argued that a rider should not be withdrawn from a race for gifting a fan a bottle.

At the Tour of the Basque Country, the first WorldTour stage race under the new rules, Australian Simon Clarke criticised the race organiser’s handling of the new rules.

“We have a massive issue with the littering rule, particularly at this race,” the Qhubeka-Assos rider told Cycling Weekly.

“The waste zones are inconsistent, very short and not highlighted very well. Multiple times we have ended up with feedbags that we can’t throw away.

“We can hand them to one rider to take them back to the race car, but then one rider has to ride through the bunch, collect feedbags from seven riders, ride all seven of them over his shoulder with empty bidons and food wrappers and then take them back to the car. It’s not practical and it creates extra danger.”

On stage three, the final waste zone was situated in the opening few hundred metres of the final, punishingly steep climb, something that Clarke, 34, couldn’t fathom.

“Yesterday’s final waste zone was halfway up the final climb. Like, come on, this is not appropriate. So we had to wait and throw our stuff away when it’s a 25 percent gradient?” he asked. “This is clearly not working and they need to actively find a solution.

“Normally the rule is that there must be a waste zone before and after the food zone, but so far this week there’s only been a waste zone before the feed zone, so if you get a feedbag, where do you throw it? If you throw it away you get disqualified.”

This situation was also raised by fellow veteran of the peloton Ben Hermans. The Israel Start Up-Nation rider said: “Now in the feed zones we have more staff members [to collect previous waste] and this makes it even more dangerous than before.

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“The more soigneurs you have on the road, the more bottlenecks are created. Normally there’d be one bottleneck a race, but now they are all the way.

“There were already crashes because of this because we don’t know where to expect musettes or bottles. There are musettes every now and we have to slow down. It’s really dangerous.”

Hermans, 34, added that “we’re not talking about it much in the peloton but at the table at breakfast and dinner we’re talking about it all the time because it’s so impractical.”

Christopher Juul-Jensen, Bike-Exchange’s Danish rider, agreed with his peers that the rule in principal makes sense but that it must be adapted.

“We have to let common sense prevail,” he said. “We cannot throw plastic and rubbish unnecessarily into fields. We all have to be responsible, especially because we’re riding in beautiful, wide-open nature and on TV.

“But being expelled for dropping a bottle or throwing a bottle to a fan is harsh. What is the problem with giving a fan a bottle? Every bike rider was once amazed by getting a bottle.

“It’s up to those who represent the riders to act in our interests and try and make some changes through a constructive discussion.”