The UCI has announced an offensive against equipment makers who are exploiting (legally) the current rules. The topic of sports regulation is always hot, especially in these days of doping and cheating. Recently, the New York Times ran a conspicuous article on the subject.
What are the UCI’s concerns? Their minds aren’t transparent, but we doubt they are anti-innovation, per se. One trend that concerns them is the extreme evolution of composite TT bikes minimizing wind resistance. Twelve years ago, they were expensive.
Today, they’re massively more developed:
What do you suppose this machine costs? I guess $20-30K. Specialized claims their head tube nose cone is not an illegal fairing (it’s a steering tube and anchors the front brake), therefore it shouldn’t be limited to the 3:1 aspect ratio of the rules. Hmm…
Specialized is a leader but by no means alone. Cervelo, Scott, Trek, Felt, BMC and many others are on the same F-1 track. By that I mean equipment priorities that more so resembles F-1 auto racing than cycling of the last century. Of course, who can blame them? The stakes are high, they have the skills, and the rules can be bent.
This topic will not fade in years to come and the discussions will continue. At the New York Times, a forum is considering the topic with celebrity athletes and experts weighing in. I’m humbled to be included, check my recent comments (limited to 300 words…).
As you can tell, I fear for the UCI. As any sports governing body (or government), they can be possessed with lofty values and become insulated from the real world. They’re capable of (but not doomed to) self destruction. In the case of these equipment rules, the TT bike runaway development should be slowed down. But the great risk for the UCI is precipitous action that will destabilize the recent, very favorable relationship between equipment suppliers and elite racing. Corporate sponsorship, lately in the hands of multi-nationals, has fallen off and bicycle makers have upped their commitments. They don’t deserve punishment.