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Old 05-06-09, 05:30 AM   #1
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True Rue

Read it and weep boys: From this morning's NY Times:

Equipment Crackdown Brings More Turmoil to Cycling’s Time Trials



By IAN AUSTEN
Published: May 5, 2009

Professional cycling is in a heated struggle among its governing body, its teams and the companies that manufacture expensive equipment over what is a legal racing bike.

The International Cycling Union abruptly alerted teams at the start of this season that it intends to clarify and reinterpret its often oblique rules governing bicycle design through increased equipment inspections.

The announcement was an unwelcome surprise. Bicycles and accessories may be banned within weeks. That could leave teams scrambling to find new bikes for top riders, and the manufacturers could find it harder to sell their merchandise.

“When I initially looked at it, I wasn’t too worried,” said Phil White, a co-founder of Cervélo, a Toronto-based bicycle manufacturer, which also sponsors a European professional team. “But now I’m quite concerned. This could be quite crushing.”

The crackdown and the renewed debate over bicycle design are not entirely unwelcome. Some prominent cyclists say that recent advances made possible by new materials and manufacturing techniques may be unfairly penalizing teams that have limited access to the latest technologies.

The cycling union first told teams about its plans through a warning letter sent in January, after the teams had accepted delivery of their bikes for the season. A month later, in the middle of the Tour of California, cycling union officials said that they would begin banning equipment immediately, although they backed down after protests. Now, the cycling group’s president, Pat McQuaid, said components must comply with standards by July 1, which means after the Giro d’Italia, which starts Saturday, but before the Tour de France. Enforcement of other standards, however, would not begin until next year.

Exactly why the cycling union decided to raise the issue without giving notice is unclear. McQuaid said the warning letter came out of discussions at the end of 2008.

“We decided to bring both the sport and the manufacturers back to reality,” McQuaid said from his office in Switzerland. “The sport needs to be a sport of athletic ability, not technical ability.”

The dispute largely involves bicycles and parts designed for time trials, the individual race against the clock. Because time trial rules ban drafting, aerodynamics are thought to significantly boost a rider’s speed. During the off-season, well-financed teams use tests in wind tunnels to evaluate bicycles and to optimize riders’ positions. What emerges are expensive and exotic bicycles.

The cycling union has long banned the use of anything intended to cheat the air. But the increasing use of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic resins, which can be shaped into a variety of forms, during the 1990s created new issues. In the ’90s, the British cyclists Chris Boardman and Graeme Obree broke the distance record for one hour — the sport’s gold standard — using bicycles with unusual designs and aerodynamic riding positions. Obree broke the record twice, on two bicycles he built himself (one used bearings from a washing machine), only for his designs to be banned later by the cycling union. In “The Flying Scotsman,” a 2006 film based on Obree’s life, the role of the villain is played by officials from a thinly disguised International Cycling Union.

In 2000, new rules included requiring bicycles be the traditional diamond shape and not weigh less than 6.8 kilograms (about 15 pounds). But another rule is more ambiguous, referring to “a fuselage form,” which the cycling union defines as an “extension or a streamlining of a section.” Whatever that may be, it cannot have a ratio that exceeds three to one. (For comparison, traditional bicycle tubing is round and has a ratio of one to one.)

Until January, manufacturers assumed the rule covered only the individual sections of a bicycle frame and went to great lengths to increase that ratio without breaking the rule, or so they thought. Giant, Scott and Felt make time-trial bicycles with elongated front ends for better aerodynamics. But in a bid to stay within the ratio, those bikes connect the forks and handlebars to the rest of the frame in unusual and complex arrangements. On its Web site, Felt asserts, “Our design created an effective airfoil shape with approximately a 6:1 aspect ratio, that is still U.C.I. legal because it does not rely on a fairing-instant speed.” U.C.I. are the cycling union’s initials in French.

In an interview, Jim Felt, the founder of Felt, an American company, said he was still confident the bicycle would pass inspection. Giant, however, had doubts and redesigned it. The biggest surprise for the industry was the announcement that all the parts of a bicycle would be under the ratio rule. Many handlebars and some cranks greatly exceed the limit. Cervélo’s White said that many of his company’s seat posts also violated the rule.

White was initially unconcerned because most of Cervélo’s customers do not race or they compete in triathlons, which are not governed by the cycling union. But he said that when a clip-on handlebar extension was banned for road-racing bikes in 2000, the popular product’s market evaporated.

Even recreational cyclists, White said, shun products once they are banned for professional use. That, combined with the current recession, he said, could ruin some companies.

“I am sometimes a bit surprised by the way things work in the industry,” said René Wiertz, a former electronics executive who owns 3T Cycling, a major handlebar maker based in Italy. “Doing things like this is pretty arrogant.”

Some riders say they would like to see not only stricter enforcement but also more restrictive rules for time-trial bikes.

Marco Pinotti, the current Italian national time-trial champion who rides for Team Columbia-Highroad, acknowledges the special equipment has benefited him, but he also says that it gives an unfair advantage to teams with large budgets for wind-tunnel testing and sophisticated equipment.

He favors forcing riders to use conventional bicycles without aerodynamic handlebars or wheels for time trials. That is unlikely to find favor with bike makers, who rely on time-trail bicycles to generate publicity — and sales.

Pinotti’s American teammate, Craig Lewis, agreed, saying in an e-mail message: “It was first named the race of truth for a reason. Now it’s just a race between the biggest budgets.”

Last edited by patentcad; 05-06-09 at 05:34 AM.
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Old 05-06-09, 05:34 AM   #2
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Just when you think that cycling authorities can't get any dumber, they do.

That's impressive.
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Old 05-06-09, 05:41 AM   #3
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I get their point, but this seems very poorly executed. At least a years notice should be given for something like this, not a few months.

Wouldn't that 3-1 idea rule out any rims deeper than 50 or 60 mm? Depending if you take the depth from the top or bottom of the braking track.
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Old 05-06-09, 05:42 AM   #4
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Let's hope the USAC doesn't pick up on this idiocy or we'll all need new gear.

Hey, maybe that wouldn't be so bad.
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Old 05-06-09, 05:45 AM   #5
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Just when you think that cycling authorities can't get any dumber, they do.

That's impressive.
designers and companies have been playing with fire for the past few years. looks like they're about to get burned.
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Old 05-06-09, 05:46 AM   #6
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It really is astonishing to me that these friggin jerks can go along, lah de friggin dah, for years, everything is legal, and then one fine day, they get up, get their stupid friggin Swiss panties in a twist, and they tell the entire industry: 'all your **** is illegal now, get all new ****, have it ready for the Tour de France, it starts in 60 days'.

That's just astonishing. How much money does a top team have in cycling crap? $1 million? And how can the manufacturers create new gear that fast. I mean it really doesn't get much dumber than that.
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Old 05-06-09, 05:51 AM   #7
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designers and companies have been playing with fire for the past few years. looks like they're about to get burned.
I couldn't possibly disagree more. If the authorities that govern cycling can't enforce their own rules, it strongly points to their inability to do so. Something that's legal in February 2009 doesn't become banned in May 2009 for any other reason than the staggering incompetence of the UCI. Had the UCI laid out clear rules and ENFORCED them from day one (that is their job) manufacturers wouldn't have invested millions upon millions of dollars in equipment that was bound for the trash heap a year or two later. That's not 'the manufacturers playing with fire', that's the UCI being unrelentingly irresponsible and F-ing over the industry that makes their stupid sport possible.

The Euros running pro cycling are just unfathomable imbeciles, and they never fail to astonish me with their arrogance and stupidity. It's just mind blowing.
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Old 05-06-09, 05:57 AM   #8
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Seems like they are starting to do this with alot of different types of racing. They already do it with Motorcycle racing....
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Old 05-06-09, 06:05 AM   #9
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I couldn't possibly disagree more. If the authorities that govern cycling can't enforce their own rules, it strongly points to their inability to do so. Something that's legal in February 2009 doesn't become banned in May 2009 for any other reason than the staggering incompetence of the UCI. Had the UCI laid out clear rules and ENFORCED them from day one (that is their job) manufacturers wouldn't have invested millions upon millions of dollars in equipment that was bound for the trash heap a year or two later. That's not 'the manufacturers playing with fire', that's the UCI being unrelentingly irresponsible and F-ing over the industry that makes their stupid sport possible.

The Euros running pro cycling are just unfathomable imbeciles, and they never fail to astonish me with their arrogance and stupidity. It's just mind blowing.
aerobars and frame designs, using waterbottles as fairings, even the skinsuits have breached UCI guidelines for awhile.

apparently the UCI got fed up with it.
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Old 05-06-09, 06:12 AM   #10
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Just when you think that cycling authorities can't get any dumber, they do.

That's impressive.
You set the bar too high.

People everywhere can be dumb.
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Old 05-06-09, 06:23 AM   #11
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aerobars and frame designs, using waterbottles as fairings, even the skinsuits have breached UCI guidelines for awhile.

apparently the UCI got fed up with it.
A sport's governing body isn't your friggin Mommy. They are SUPPOSED to be a professional, competent, authority that lays down rules and standards and enforces them in a cohesive, predictable and consistent manner. They don't just 'get fed up with it' like some over-stressed parent. Their responsibility, one of their primary reasons for even existing in the first place is to define standards for the sport and then to apply those rules uniformly over time.

If this stuff was OK last year and illegal this year, and UCI rules never changed, the UCI is guilty of profound incompetence by any definition. That's my take on this. That will be the industry take on this. That will be the media's impression. I'm sure the fans will agree. So everybody's insane except the UCI.

That should work. After all, this is cycling, the Idiot Sport By Which All Others Shall Be Judged, and we have the governing body we deserve, don't we?
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Old 05-06-09, 06:28 AM   #12
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The part of this that seems particularly absurd is this notion that a Cervelo or Felt that a top team can afford gives that team some significant advantage that the 'poorer' teams can't 'afford'. I'd argue that the top teams in the UCI all have budgets that grant them access to similar high end bikes (particularly the competitive top tier teams) and that this is really splitting hairs. They all have aero wheels, skin suits, aero TT bikes. Is some dude on Cervelo or Garmin really going to win the TT over a guy from Team Le Nowhere because they had a TT bike that was faster? Cancellera beats that Le Team Nowhere guy in the TT by 4 minutes, not 4 seconds. Get serious.
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Old 05-06-09, 06:29 AM   #13
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A sport's governing body isn't your friggin Mommy. They are SUPPOSED to be a professional, competent, authority that lays down rules and standards and enforces them in a cohesive, predictable and consistent manner. They don't just 'get fed up with it' like some over-stressed parent. Their responsibility, one of their primary reasons for even existing in the first place is to define standards for the sport and then to apply those rules uniformly over time.

If this stuff was OK last year and illegal this year, and UCI rules never changed, the UCI is guilty of profound incompetence by any definition. That's my take on this. That will be the industry take on this. That will be the media's impression. I'm sure the fans will agree. So everybody's insane except the UCI.

That should work. After all, this is cycling, the Idiot Sport By Which All Others Shall Be Judged, and we have the governing body we deserve, don't we?
you're missing the point. the stuff wasn't ok last year, but for whatever reasons the UCI turned a blind eye. that is no longer the case.
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Old 05-06-09, 06:33 AM   #14
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you're missing the point. the stuff wasn't ok last year, but for whatever reasons the UCI turned a blind eye. that is no longer the case.
I think you're missing the point. Turning a blind eye and then taking the eye patch off the following season is the very definition of incompetence. To me at least. It strikes me as completely outrageous and damages the sport.

Moreover, this is the kind of thing they should address at the END of the season, and tell everyone that next year it will be different. Announcing this in May five days before the Giro starts is like outlawing all the bats in baseball the week before the post season begins. It's just over the top, the most moronic way to govern a sport I can possibly imagine. Now everyone is in an uproar, nobody knows what to do, and the whole sport appears to be F'd.

The UCI will have no choice but to backpedal on this anyway. It is cycling, backpedaling is normal.
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Old 05-06-09, 06:37 AM   #15
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The Euros running pro cycling are just unfathomable imbeciles, and they never fail to astonish me with their arrogance and stupidity. It's just mind blowing.
The North America needs to stage a coup. That'd fix pro cycling. Forever.
Sorry about your mind there, pcad. You probably need some retail therapy to feel right again.
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Old 05-06-09, 06:42 AM   #16
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The North America needs to stage a coup. That'd fix pro cycling.
I can't imagine anything could be much worse than the UCI and the pinheads who run the Tour de France. It's like a bunch of stoned Marxists trying to run the NY Stock Exchange.

Whoah. Now they'll move this thread over to the MTB Forum.
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Old 05-06-09, 06:43 AM   #17
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I think you're missing the point. Turning a blind eye and then taking the eye patch off the following season is the very definition of incompetence. To me at least. It strikes me as completely outrageous and damages the sport.
incorrect.

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Moreover, this is the kind of thing they should address at the END of the season, and tell everyone that next year it will be different. Announcing this in May five days before the Giro starts is like outlawing all the bats in baseball the week before the post season begins. It's just over the top, the most moronic way to govern a sport I can possibly imagine. Now everyone is in an uproar, nobody knows what to do, and the whole sport appears to be F'd.

The UCI will have no choice but to backpedal on this anyway. It is cycling, backpedaling is normal.
agreed.
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Old 05-06-09, 06:48 AM   #18
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We'll never see this the same b. The Euros have infiltrated your fragile NY mind.
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Old 05-06-09, 06:50 AM   #19
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We'll never see this the same b. The Euros have infiltrated your fragile NY mind.
writes the greeka.
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Old 05-06-09, 06:52 AM   #20
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Didn't we already have this argument?
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Old 05-06-09, 06:54 AM   #21
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My Dad's Greek, but he came to the USA in 1946. He spends summers at his house in Evia, Greece. I visit him. We all agree that Greece is a nice place to visit, but the entire country is beyond the pale. That's why all the hard working Greeks emigrate to places like the USA and Australia and why Greece will never get out of its own way. It's the European Common Market's token third world nation.

My parents love Greece, but they kiss the friggin ground in September/October when they return to JFK. Trust me on this.
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Old 05-06-09, 07:06 AM   #22
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If all the riders end up riding similar bikes, why should any cyclist see that as a negative? Is it your bike racing, or is it you? Bicycle racing should not be allowed to become the same as auto racing. Let's face it, like athletes in any sport, most pro cyclists and pretenders aren't that bright or educated, so I wouldn't expect them to agree, nor would I expect a bunch of profit-oriented industrialists to agree. That's why we have bodies like UCI.

I for one think that time trials should be raced on the same bikes as the rest of the race, and so should climbing stages. One race, one bike.
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Old 05-06-09, 07:10 AM   #23
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If all the riders end up riding similar bikes, why should any cyclist see that as a negative?
They do all ride similar bikes and use similar gear. The UCI splitting hairs notwithstanding, that is not the issue at all. It is the INCOMPETENT MANNER in which they first impose rules, then do NOT enforce them, and then later decide, SURPRISE!!!, now we WILL enforce them, mid-season, weeks before the biggest events on the pro calendar.

You don't think that's a problem? Well then, by all means, carry on. And please, do fax your resume to the UCI. And of course, consider emigrating to Greece, you'd love it there too.
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Old 05-06-09, 07:14 AM   #24
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The cycling union has long banned the use of anything intended to cheat the air.

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Old 05-06-09, 07:19 AM   #25
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I am for technology. The highest level of the sport is partially funded by technology development (as in motor racing). I disagree that the rich teams are going to win all the time trials. Rider position and power are still the main determinants of who wins time trials.

To make such a big deal out of whether a base-bar adheres to a 3:1 aspect ratio rule is silly. It is not going to make more than a few seconds worth of difference. The UCI has some stupid rules anyway. The 5cm rule is unfair since it is equally applied to frame sizes that could be 62 or 48. 5cm behind the bottom bracket is a long distance on a 48cm bike, and hardly any distance at all on a 62cm bike.

With all the pissing and moaning about things like aero-shaped bottles they are missing the actual race data. Riders winning TTs while having round bottles on their downtubes. Riders winning TTs with poor aero positions simply because they have the power necessary. This argument serves no purpose other than to give the UCI more attention than they deserve.
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