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  1. #1
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    The UCI's Three Kilometer Rule

    I'm sure most people have an opinion on this, but I'm curious to hear your reasoning.

    I understand the intent, but I think it's really poorly worded. It's a correlation/causation problem which doesn't address the cause.

    I can't decide how to improve upon it, but there is nothing magical about 3k that makes a 3.1k gap closeable after a crash, and 2.9k an insurmountable gap after a crash.

    The real kicker for me is that when the guy that CAUSED the crash goes down, he essentially gets a time bonus for doing so, while anybody beyond 3k loses time to the guy that caused the crash in the first place. This is exactly how Contador lost his time on stage 1.

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    Here's an imaginary scenario, which, as far as I know, would hold true if it occured:
    Stage 21, sprint on the Champs Elysees. I'm in 2nd on the GC, 30 seconds out of the yellow jersey, and we're both with the peloton. The yellow jersey punctures at 3.5k and stops for a wheel. At 2.9k there's a crash and I go down. The yellow jersey and I cross the line at the same time, but I get the same time as the stage winner, and the yellow jersey gets his actual time. Even though he finished the entire course in less time than me, I win the Tour de France.

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    Seņor Member USAZorro's Avatar
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    only if you lose 31 seconds or more to the winner.

    or... you could finish 5 minutes after, and still claim victory.
    The search for inner peace continues...

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    I'd call it stupid, but I can't think of a "less stupid" rule.

    There are just more factors than distance that contribute to a gap being closeable or not. A quick, relatively painless crash for a strong climber, 2k from an uphill finish (like stage 1) might be closeable, while a really bad crash 15k from a flat finish might not be for the same guy, especially with a damaged bike and nobody to help pull him back up. This could even be the case on the same stage, if kilometers 15-2 were flat, and the last two uphill.

    Here's the text:
    Quote Originally Posted by UCI Rule 2.6.027
    In the case of a duly noted fall, puncture or mechanical incident in the last three kilometers of a
    road race stage, the rider or riders involved shall be credited with the time of the rider or riders in
    whose company they were riding at the moment of the accident. His or their placing shall be determined by the order in which he or they actually cross the finishing line.
    If, as the result of a duly noted fall in the last three kilometers, a rider cannot cross the finishing line, he
    shall be placed last in the stage and credited with the time of the rider or riders in whose company he
    was riding at the time of the accident.
    (text modified on 1.01.05)

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    It makes you wonder why there are not more "duly noted fall, puncture or mechanical incident in the last three kilometers of a road race stage." I know that 3 kilometers are not much in a stage but think about it. If you are an underling that has to do service the next day that is a slight break over the rest of the field. You have your problem then get to coast in taking it easy.

    How old is this rule? Has it been in place for a long time? Maybe it goes back to the old days when riders and their times could be "manipulated" somewhat. Say a rider who looks to be on winning form close to the finish has a puncture/flat. (His tire is shot out by someone on the grassy knoll.)

  6. #6
    Senior Member dstrong's Avatar
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    Could someone learn to fall really well and just fall within 3km of the finish on every stage? They'd get the same time as every stage winner and win the yellow! Taking it to the extreme for sure.

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    Maybe that's why Schleck keeps dropping his chain! He's just got to learn to do it within the 3k mark.

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    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    There is a lot more to the reasoning than the gap being unclosable. A much more important aspect is safety. For most of the race it is safest at or near front especially when it comes to GC hopes. GC riders tend to stay near the front. Not so much for sprinters. They worry more about conserving energy for that burst at the end. If tehy get caught behind a crash their chance for the stage is gone, thatis all they lose. The same happens to a GC contender and his hopes can be over.

    With the 3k rule top GC riders (and most of the others on their team) drop off the front shortly after 3k from the finish. It gives enough time to sort things out. Otherwise we would see GC riders staying near the front until dangerously late.

    One might ask what has changed over the years. Well in 1969 (a year I'm fond of) 130 riders started and 86 finished. Last year it was 197 starting and 170 finishing. A lot more to sort out and the streets have not gotten any wider.

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    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dstrong View Post
    Could someone learn to fall really well and just fall within 3km of the finish on every stage? They'd get the same time as every stage winner and win the yellow! Taking it to the extreme for sure.
    You do not get the winners time, you get the time of the group you are with.

    And the 3km rule is not in effect on when the finish is on or just after a climb.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seypat View Post
    It makes you wonder why there are not more "duly noted fall, puncture or mechanical incident in the last three kilometers of a road race stage." I know that 3 kilometers are not much in a stage but think about it. If you are an underling that has to do service the next day that is a slight break over the rest of the field. You have your problem then get to coast in taking it easy.

    How old is this rule? Has it been in place for a long time? Maybe it goes back to the old days when riders and their times could be "manipulated" somewhat. Say a rider who looks to be on winning form close to the finish has a puncture/flat. (His tire is shot out by someone on the grassy knoll.)
    Rules like this go a ways back. I always forget the name of the race, but long ago there were different kinds of races. One that was very prestigous was an invitational Time Trial with 2 man teams.

    So what does this have to do with the 3km rule. Well I saw an article about J. Anquetil that made the point that in some ways the measure of a great cyclist is not how good he is on his best day, but how determined and tough he is on his worst. Anquetil had a pretty bad day one year in that event. His partner Rudy Altig (the best German rider of all time until recently) had a great day. Anquetil was barely able to hold Altig's wheel. But Rudy was having a truely great day, he still pulled Anquetil to the finish and a win.

    Well almost. They did in fact get the win. But the finish was in a stadium and it turned out Anquetil quite litterally hit the wall, he missed the entrance and hit the wall! But the race times were taken at the stadium entrance, not the finish line inside.

    See the wiki on rudy for details. I think the year was 1966.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudi_Altig

    The 3km distance itself is pretty new. I think it was 1km for quite a while before it got raised.

  11. #11
    It's MY mountain DiabloScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
    One that was very prestigous was an invitational Time Trial with 2 man teams.
    Sounds like GP Eddy Merckx. Haven't seen that one in a while.
    http://diabloscott.blogspot.com/

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    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
    Sounds like GP Eddy Merckx. Haven't seen that one in a while.
    It was the Trofeo Baracchi.

    I was surprised how long it existed when I loked it up. The team format lasted til 1990, the last was an individual TT won by Tony Rominger. A rather impressive list of winners. The Altig/Anguetil win was in 1962. In 1968 Anquetil won with Felice Gimondi, a pretty good pair.

    It started in 1944 with the 2 rider teams starting in 1949. Pretty much an Italian race until the 60s it seems. But even so impressive winner list from early on.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trofeo_Baracchi

    I think the change on teh GP Eddy Mercks may have been an attempt to recapture the Trofeo Baracchi.

  13. #13
    Senior Member dstrong's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
    You do not get the winners time, you get the time of the group you are with.

    And the 3km rule is not in effect on when the finish is on or just after a climb.
    Oh yeah...there's that! According to the Leopard-Trek site, the 3km rule was instituted in 2005.

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  14. #14
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dstrong View Post
    Oh yeah...there's that! According to the Leopard-Trek site, the 3km rule was instituted in 2005.
    That sounds about right for the extension from 1 km to 3 km.

  15. #15
    Upgrading my engine DXchulo's Avatar
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    It makes a lot of sense on pure sprint stages. The more I think about it, the more I think they should have considered Stage 1 enough of a climb to lift the rule. I'm sure Evans would agree.

    The logic behind the rule is that you don't want GC guys up near the front causing chaos for the sprinters because the GC guys don't want to lose time behind a crash. So they give them an out there where they can fall back and if a crash happens, they don't lose time. Splits rarely happen on a flat stage after 3k, so the GC guys can just hang in the back and get out of the way. I suppose they could just let the GC guys stop riding after 3k, but that would look too wimpy.

    Obviously the 3k is arbitrary and something could happen 3.1k out, but there has to be a line somewhere. How are you going to change that?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
    You do not get the winners time, you get the time of the group you are with.

    And the 3km rule is not in effect on when the finish is on or just after a climb.
    On sprint stages, the "winner's time" and "the group's time" are almost always the same thing. There could be some riders off the back that couldn't hold the ramped up pace, but they probably won't be brought down in the mid-peloton crash in the first place.

    The 3km rule was in effect on stage 1 the other day, which was DEFINITELY an uphill finish, as well as stage 6 today, which was just after a considerable climb.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kind of Blued View Post
    On sprint stages, the "winner's time" and "the group's time" are almost always the same thing. There could be some riders off the back that couldn't hold the ramped up pace, but they probably won't be brought down in the mid-peloton crash in the first place.

    The 3km rule was in effect on stage 1 the other day, which was DEFINITELY an uphill finish, as well as stage 6 today, which was just after a considerable climb.
    If it is not enough to even be rated as a cat 4 climb it is ot a considerable climb. And clerly not a climb in the sense of the sprinters not being involved as can be seen by the fact Thor was there both times.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
    If it is not enough to even be rated as a cat 4 climb it is ot a considerable climb. And clerly not a climb in the sense of the sprinters not being involved as can be seen by the fact Thor was there both times.
    I can't understand your second sentence, but stage 1 ended on top of a Cat 4 climb. Thor, a sprinter, got third, and the 3km rule was in effect.
    Last edited by Kind of Blued; 07-08-11 at 10:46 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DXchulo View Post
    It makes a lot of sense on pure sprint stages. The more I think about it, the more I think they should have considered Stage 1 enough of a climb to lift the rule. I'm sure Evans would agree.

    The logic behind the rule is that you don't want GC guys up near the front causing chaos for the sprinters because the GC guys don't want to lose time behind a crash. So they give them an out there where they can fall back and if a crash happens, they don't lose time. Splits rarely happen on a flat stage after 3k, so the GC guys can just hang in the back and get out of the way. I suppose they could just let the GC guys stop riding after 3k, but that would look too wimpy.

    Obviously the 3k is arbitrary and something could happen 3.1k out, but there has to be a line somewhere. How are you going to change that?
    Every GC guy this year who crashed outside of 3k is DOWN on time.
    Every GC guy this year who crashed inside of 3k is NOT DOWN on time.

    The location of the crash is happenstance. The time gaps (which the 3k rule is meant to ELIMINATE) are actually CAUSED by the 3k rule.

    Meanwhile, every GC guy, except Cadel, is down on time this year because of a crash. Why? Because, contrary to the "logic" of the 3k rule, BMC has kept Cadel at the front constantly.
    Last edited by Kind of Blued; 07-08-11 at 10:45 AM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by DXchulo View Post
    The logic behind the rule is that you don't want GC guys up near the front causing chaos for the sprinters because the GC guys don't want to lose time behind a crash. So they give them an out there where they can fall back and if a crash happens, they don't lose time. Splits rarely happen on a flat stage after 3k, so the GC guys can just hang in the back and get out of the way. I suppose they could just let the GC guys stop riding after 3k, but that would look too wimpy.
    After thinking about it a lot, I think they should abandon the rule, and allow the teams to adjust their riding tactics accordingly.

    On sprint stages, it's up to the teams to employ their chosen tactics to achieve their goal, whether that is win the sprint, or protect a GC contender.

    One option is for a GC team to stay up front to hopefully avoid a crash. This is a bet they're hedging, as they do this at the expense of using a massive amount of energy to match a sprint team's lead out train. There's also a good chance their GC rider, who would be riding 2nd, 3rd, or even 9th behind his teammates, could get caught in the epicenter of a sprinters' crash, which could be worse than riding up on crashed riders already in the road.

    Another option, which makes the most sense to me, is for the GC contender to have his team organize OFF THE BACK of the peloton. Since the GC guy only has to finish within one second of the rear of the peloton, why not conserve his energy, stay away from crashes, and essentially launch him into the rear of the peloton just before the finish line?

    If there's a crash up front, the GC guy likely won't go down or sustain any injuries, and he won't lose any time to anyone, unless there's a crash. In that case, the team in the front won their bet that staying up front was the smart thing to do.

    Everybody says "it's racing, crashes happen". In my opinion, it makes more sense to let the rules reflect that, instead of make rules that help us pretend that a crash didn't happen. SAFETY is still important, and that's left up to the teams who are responsible for protecting their GC rider.

  21. #21
    Heretic Caretaker's Avatar
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    Finishes commonly happen in medium sized towns because they guarantee crowds and athmosphere. Towns mean narrow streets. How does a "GC team" protect its guy if the road is blocked when the riders go down in a bunch sprint with spectators jamming the roadside? The team "winning their bet" by staying up front to protect their GC guy will likely cause more crashes. These towns have paid to get the stage finish and they don't want chaos on their streets.

    The 3kms rule is there for a very good reason.
    History is the future

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
    Finishes commonly happen in medium sized towns because they guarantee crowds and athmosphere. Towns mean narrow streets. How does a "GC team" protect its guy if the road is blocked when the riders go down in a bunch sprint with spectators jamming the roadside? The team "winning their bet" by staying up front to protect their GC guy will likely cause more crashes. These towns have paid to get the stage finish and they don't want chaos on their streets.

    The 3kms rule is there for a very good reason.
    Don't want to crash? Don't go up front. In fact, stay BACK. It shouldn't be hard to do that without losing a single second on the sprint winner or the main group.

    The 3km rule causes false time gaps between GC contenders, and that kills the spirit of competition, the same way that crashes kill the spirit of competition in sprints.
    Last edited by Kind of Blued; 07-09-11 at 05:02 PM.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kind of Blued View Post
    Don't want to crash? Don't go up front. In fact, stay BACK. It shouldn't be hard to do that without losing a single second on the sprint winner or the main group.

    The 3km rule causes false time gaps between GC contenders, and that kills the spirit of competition, the same way that crashes kill the spirit of competition in sprints.
    Unless, of course, there is a crash the occurs in front of you in the last 3km... which is, you know, the whole purpose of the 3km rule. Since you'll now be stuck behind the crash all the GCs, and several of their teammates, will now be at the very front jockeying for position with the sprinters and causing even more crashes in their attempt to not get stuck behind any crash caused by the sprinters, and their lead out, and the GCs, and their supporters, all fighting to be in the front.

    Unlike you, I'd rather not see the spirit of competition intentionally killed by removing the 3km rule. The rule should just be tweaked such that any time lost being stuck behind a crash inside 3km is nullified. Since all the riders have GPS transponders that wouldn't be that difficult.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malloric View Post
    The rule should just be tweaked such that any time lost being stuck behind a crash inside 3km is nullified. Since all the riders have GPS transponders that wouldn't be that difficult.
    What about time lost being stuck behind a crash while outside of 3k? What if the crash was within 3k and those who lose time were outside of 3k at the time of the crash?

  25. #25
    Heretic Caretaker's Avatar
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    There's nothing magical about 3k it's just a good compromise distance, not too close and not too far.

    The rule as already explained is to avoid chaos and crashes at the finish. I suppose any rule to avoid crashes will be seen as 'anti-competitive' but at least everybody is aware of it and accepts it will very occasionally work against them.

    "What if the crash was within 3k and those who lose time were outside of 3k at the time of the crash?"

    For every rule there's always some 'what ifery'.
    Crashes are part of the unfairness of life and bike races including the TdF mirror that unfairness.
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