Chris Froome (Sky) survived the hot and crash-marred final of the Vuelta a España‘s stage four to Tarragona along Spain’s Catalonian coast, but wants the UCI implement a three-second rule like the one it trialled in the Tour de France.
The UCI rolled out a three-second rule for flat finishes in the Tour de France that allowed spaces between groups to reach three seconds before the jury would consider it a split. This added two seconds from the current one-second rule and, according to some riders including Froome, it eased the tensions in the peloton.
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“On the crashes today, I think having that three-second rule like we had in the Tour de France makes things safer,” said Froome. “I like to see it in finishes like today that are tactical and dangerous.”
Froome sat through a press conference and at the end, raised the topic of crashes in sprint finishes without the question asked.
“I think that rule makes the front of the race a lot safer. No one wants the GC guys up there sprinting, we don’t want to be there, but obviously we have to be up there,” he said.
“We should bring back the three-second rule. The guys I talk too say they want it too. That’s something for the UCI and commissionaires to look at.”
It is unclear if the governing body could implement the rule mid-race in the Vuelta a España. Cycling Weekly reached out for comment, but had not heard back from the UCI before this article was published.
Stress levels rise in flat finishes because sprinters and their teams race at the front for the stage win and classification riders push to be there as well in case a split occurs in the group. Using three seconds instead of one, gives more leeway for the classification riders and their teams.
When the UCI rolled out the rule for the Tour, it said that at 60kph the distance between the last rider of a group and the first of the next is 17 metres at one second. It jumps to 50 metres at three seconds.
Stage winner Matteo Trentin said that he ordered his Quick-Step Floors team to the front precisely because so he could avoid trouble in the technical finish and have a chance for the win.
Crashes further out involved Daniel Moreno (Movistar), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal).
Some disagree that the rule changes the way classification teams race.
“If you have a multi-million dollar rider who’s going for a top GC placing in the Tour you are not going to just sit last wheel because they made a slight adjustment to the rules,” Charly Wegelius, Cannondale-Drapac sports director said in the Tour.
“We have to be aware of the fact that winning the Tour or winning stage races is also about being one of the best bike riders, capable of being in the peloton and riding at the front. I don’t think we should go too far and take the edges off it.”
Froome took over the leader’s red jersey after stage three to Andorra on Monday. This is the earliest he has had the race lead in a Grand Tour along with the 2015 Tour de France where he wore yellow after stage three before giving it up the following day.
“Racing from the front has always been a good position for me to be in. A more of a defensive position and not trying make time up on anyone else,” he said.
“Today was all about the final, quite a tricky run in. My team-mates did a good job to keep me up there. With the risk of being splits in the final, it was important to stay up front.”