UCI bans celebration hugs in order to send the right coronavirus message to fans

The medical boss of cycling's governing body says while the risk of contagion is low, it's important to show people physical contact has to minimised 'if we want to stop the virus'

Davide Ballerini celebrates with Julian Alaphilippe after winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2021 (Dirk Waem/Belga/AFP via Getty Images)
(Image credit: Belga/AFP via Getty Images)

The UCI has asked riders to not hug their team-mates when celebrating after a race, as the peloton begins to ride through the coronavirus pandemic for a second season.

As well as various safety protocols being introduced this year, including changes to barrier placement, litter disposal, and banning certain bike positions, the UCI has also forbidden riders from embracing their team-mates after the finish line.

While the UCI's medical boss, Xavier Bigard, admits the risk of infection from hugging is low, considering not only that teams are kept in bubbles with their colleagues at races but also that riders will have been alongside each other all day in the bunch, the ban is intended to send the right message to fans.

"As a doctor, I can say that the risk of becoming infected by hugging is not particularly high,” Bigard said in a UCI health and safety seminar. "However, it is all about the message we want to send to the world, and more specifically to cycling fans. Namely that it is forbidden to touch other people if we want to stop the virus.

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"When we saw certain riders congratulating and hugging each other, we knew this was not a good message for fans and spectators.

"There is already a ban for riders to hug and touch each other on the podium. Common sense tells us that it is therefore wise not to display the same behavior after the finish, even if they have won it."

Football has already tried to stop players from hugging after scoring a goal, with the Premier League attempting to ban their players to little avail, then reinforcing their stance to club owners before managers said it was something that was hard to enforce.

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.