Team management and mechanics at the Tour of California were panicking after rumours swirled that the UCI would be rigidly enforcing a new technical rule at this Friday’s time trial in Solvang. The rule could disqualify many types of aero bars as well as some frames and wheels.
UCI technical ruling 1.3.024 – which was just modified on 1 Jan 2009 – states that, “A fuselage form shall be defined as an extension or streamlining of a section. This shall be tolerated as long as the ratio between the length (L) and the diameter (D) does not exceed 3.”
Previously the rules stated only that cross-sections of any particular frame or component had to fit within an 8 x 2.5cm rectangle. By that definition, all of the equipment currently planned for use on Friday is legal.
However, if the 3-to-1 rule is applied, nearly every team currently listed on the Tour of California roster is headed for disaster unless a contingency plan is put into effect.
Among the equipment violations would be virtually every aero handlebar currently in use (with one notable exception being Bontrager), many aero seatposts, some wheels and possibly even some frames.
The potential penalties for violating the ruling are severe: either the rider won’t be allowed to start with the equipment in question, or the rule could be retroactively applied and the applicable performance could be disqualified.
Alternate options discussed by various teams range from incredibly inconvenient to downright impossible: scores of aero handlebars would have to be both obtained and installed prior to Friday or riders would be forced to use their road bikes on the decisive stage.