UCI Regulations for road cycling: changes for time trials

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announces that it has modified several articles in Part 1 (“General organisation of cycling as a sport”) and Part 2 (“Road races”) of its Regulations. The main changes, in force as of 1st January 2023, concern road individual time trial events.

The rule for the minimum distance allowed between the rider and following vehicles during road individual time trials (art. 2.4.023) has been modified. The following vehicles must now remain at least 25 metres behind the rider (previously 10 metres).

This new rule aims to ensure that the results of time trials are not influenced by the proximity of the rider to the following vehicle and thus to guarantee the sporting fairness of the competition and increase rider safety.

While the importance of the aerodynamic gains is well known within cycling, a study carried out by the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands has shown that placing a vehicle closely behind the cyclist can modify the airflow around the cyclist and potentially lead to an advantage gain for the cyclist.

The study finds that the presence of a car 10 m behind a rider gives the athlete an advantage of 0.05 of a second per kilometre at a speed of 46.8 km/h (speed corresponding to that achieved in time trials). This is equivalent to one second in a 20 km time trial. However, by extending the distance to 15 m, the advantage becomes insignificant.

After consultation with the parties concerned, the decision was taken to increase the minimum distance between the rider and the following vehicle to 25 m. This distance, which is greater than the stated 15 m, ensures that the presence of vehicles does not have an effect on the performance of the cyclist. Furthermore, the 25 m distance aims to increase rider safety by providing the driver of the vehicle with longer reaction times in the case of an unexpected mishap or incident.

The UCI acknowledges that certain race convoy vehicles (Commissaires, Regulators, TV motorbikes, photographers etc.) are permitted to stay within a closer proximity when carrying out their respective roles. However, these vehicles must stay out of the direct slipstream (i.e., to the side) of the rider to mitigate any potential aerodynamic gains.

With regard to the time trial equipment, and more specifically time trial handlebar extensions, the new regulations have been updated to better take into account the different heights of riders and provide more flexibility to adjust their position.

For riders in the Height Category 1 (less than 180 cm), the maximum horizontal distance between the centre of the bottom bracket axle and the end of the extensions, may be 80 cm. In addition, the difference in height between the forearm support and the highest point of the extension must be less than 10 cm. For riders in the Height Category 2 (180 – 189.9 cm) and the Height Category 3 (190 cm or more) the maximum measurements are 83 / 12 cm and 85 / 14 cm respectively. For reference see the below illustrations.

To accommodate the above regulations changes the maximum inclination angle of the forearm support of the handlebar extensions has been increased from 15 to 30°.

The objective of the new regulations is to provide riders with greater stability and safety while maintaining an aerodynamic position.

To increase rider safety, the UCI has also tightened up the regulations for dangerous driving by persons in the race convoy (art. 2.2.040 and 2.12.007-6.3). From 1st January 2023, persons present in/on a vehicle and who are at the origin of misconduct with regard to traffic regulations may be suspended for a maximum of seven days and also receive a financial penalty.

For example, a photographer may be sanctioned for ordering his or her motorbike rider to overtake the peloton when the race conditions do not permit and/or placing a 3rd party in a dangerous position. Until now, only the motorbike rider could be punished, whereas the photographer could continue working the next day with another motorcyclist. In addition, while this type of sanction has applied to UCI WorldTour events only, it will now apply to all classes of events.

Full UCI Regulations