The UCI has amended its rulebook to allow Junior riders to use any gear ratio they wish in races, a change that will come into place from the start of next season.
Cycling's governing body slipped the changes out in the latest update to their regulations, the same update which saw the UCI's new rules on transgender athletes introduced.
UCI regulation 2.2.023 currently states: “During men junior and women junior events, the maximum gear ratio authorised is that which gives a distance covered per pedal revolution of 7.93 metres.”
For most Junior riders that has meant they have had to use a 52 chainring up front paired to a 14 sprocket on the rear. With the new update, this rule has been crossed out completely.
The gear restrictions meant that Junior racers had to pass a “rollout” at every race, where an official turned the crank one turn and measures how far the bicycle rolls in that one crank rotation. From next year, this procedure will no longer be necessary, to the relief of officials and riders.
It is thought the gear restriction was first introduced to protect the knees of under-18 riders, with the idea that Junior riders couldn't cope with the forces needed to turn ordinary gears. Those who have been outpaced by a teenager might disagree with the need to keep them away from a bigger 53×11 or similar-sized gear ratio.
If the concept was there to restrict the speed of junior races, then that also seems redundant; it seems like a forward-thinking thing that the UCI has changed its rules.
As Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM all produce 12-speed cassettes for their top-tier products, it was getting increasingly hard to find the Junior-specific gearing needed.
National federations were emailed the news in an updated this week. It will be a relief for top Juniors from next year, although annoying to those thousands of riders who have had to race with restricted gearing over the years.
"The decision is based on the limited availability of equipment needed for Junior gearing in addition to medical evidence that no longer supports the current restrictions," the email said, CyclingTips reported.
In other updates to the UCI's regulations released on Wednesday, there are some minor adjustments to time trial positions, creating allowances for riders of different heights.
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