‘Bidongate’ hit the Tour of Oman on Thursday, as 13 out of the 18 teams in this year’s race were fined for littering during stage three.
Last night’s race communiqué said that teams “failed to respect the instructions by the race administration or the commissaires” and that “a lot of bottles were thrown away in the field between kilometre 25 and 50”.
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IAM Cycling’s directeur sportif Eddy Seigneur received the greatest fine: 450 CHF (£310) – 50CHF (£35) each for the nine bottles his riders were adjudged to have thrown in this period.
Astana and Katusha were hit with the second most severe penalty of 350CHF, with fines across all squads totalling 2450CHF (£1715) Bora-Argon 18, Orica-GreenEdge, Giant-Alpecin, Topsport Vlaanderen and Trek were not reprimanded.
At least one fined DS confronted the commissaires’ panel last night about these penalties, Cycling Weekly understands.
“We can’t understand how the rules were applied,” said another, who wished to remain anonymous. “Trek is one of the teams who was not fined – it rode at the front all day for [race leader Fabian] Cancellara, so the commissaires in cars behind the peloton wouldn’t have seen its riders as easily.
“They definitely threw bottles, though.”
MTN-Qhuebka’s DS Jens Zemke was hit with a three-bottle fine; somewhat ironic perhaps given his team ran out of new bidons yesterday, and had to appeal to riders from other teams to hand over their used ones.
“We ran out because of the heat – we did not calculate that too well, and I think teams who have been here before are more experienced than us in that area,” he said.
Most riders are drinking one or two bottles an hour more than normal in Oman because of the 35°C temperatures. In total, that equates to roughly 10 bottles per rider, per stage here.
“I would say we collected 40 or 50 bottles yesterday,” Zemke told Cycling Weekly, showing a picture of its stash. In it were those from Katusha, IAM, Etixx, Sky and Bora, as well as its own.
“I’d guess our riders came back between 10 to 15 times to bring back used bidons yesterday, so I cannot understand how we are on this list, but five teams are not.”
IAM’s Matthias Brändle was one of those who contributed to MTN’s bottle appeal.
“It’s not a hard task to bring bottles back to team cars if the race is not very fast,” he said. “But if we are racing at 50km/h like we did in Qatar last week, it’s just not possible to do that.”
Unlike in Europe, where bidons are sought-after souvenirs for those on the road side, the lack of crowds in Oman make littering a problem.
“We only lost a few bottles yesterday, but these are the rules of the country, so we have to accept it,” said Etixx-Quick Step DS Wilfried Peeters (who was fined 150CHF).
“I think for the future, we need areas in all races where riders can throw litter away.
“It only has to be 500m or one kilometre, maybe just before the feed zone, just as there is in the Tour de France, and then people can collect the waste easily.”
This wasn’t the first example of a bidon-related controversy in professional cycling: Belgian sprinter Tom Steels was disqualified for throwing a bottle which hit Gan’s Fred Moncassin during the 1997 Tour de France.