UCI clarifies rules on aero shifters at Tirreno-Adriatico

Or maybe not. The UCI clarifies its rule on time trial shifters, causing some team mechanics to get creative

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Time to get out the hacksaws!

Or maybe not. Clever mechanics are interpreting a new UCI shifter clarification with ingenuity. In a communiqué distributed to teams at Tirreno-Adriatico, the UCI has handed down a new clarification to where time trial extensions will be measured for riders using return-to-center shifters (Namely the SRAM R2C).

  • If the shifter is manual and changes its position during gearing, the distance of 75 cm is taken from the axis point of the gear lever.
  • In the case of an electrical gear change system operated by a push button or if the shifter comes back to its original position (horizontal) after the gearing, the distance of 75 cm is measured to the end of the extension (overall length).

*the italics are the clarification.

Figure A: UCI's measuring template for time trial bikes
Figure A: UCI's measuring template for time trial bikes

The UCI rule on bike position (Article 1.3.023) limits the forward extension of aero bars to no more than 75 cm ahead of the bottom bracket, measured horizontally from the bottom bracket (see Figure A) (There is a morphological exception for taller riders that allows an additional 5 cm, but let’s keep this simple). The question was whether shifters at the end of the aero bars count toward that total. Many medium and larger riders push their extensions as far forward as the rules allow, so the rule clarification could mean some bikes with the SRAM shifters will have to be adjusted by as much as 5 centimeters.

the distance from the centre of the bottom bracket axle to the
extremity of the handlebars; which must not exceed 750 mm
(Article 1.3.023)Julien Carron, UCI Technical Coordinator, explained, “This rule differentiates integrated shifters (ed. including R2C shifters in a horizontal position), which can be used as the handlebars extensions themselves to manual gear change systems which cannot be used to go forward on the extensions.”

Where the mechanics are getting creative is by placing emphasis on the word “horizontal” in the clarification. SRAM R2C shifters can be adjusted so that the position they return to after a shift is not horizontal. So far officials are letting it fly (See Figure C in the thumbnails below this article).

Geoff Brown, Garmin-Cervelo head mechanic said, “When the R2C shifters are set in the straight ahead, horizontal position, it does actually increase the overall length of the extension by 5cm. With this in mind I guess the UCI has a point. Fortunately for the moment the UCI officials are allowing us some leeway until the new rule is widely known. As far as extra work to adapt to the new regs goes, as you know you can easily reset the base position of the SRAM R2C lever to conform so its not a big deal really.”

SRAM R2C shifters on Alberto Contador's 2010 Tour de France time trial bike
Figure B: SRAM R2C shifters on Alberto Contador's 2010 Tour de France time trial bike

Craig Geater, Team RadioShack head mechanic said, “According to the way the UCI rule is written, it only applies to shifters in a horizontal position. So we put ours on a slight angle (not horizontal). But so far our bikes pass control. As far as the R2C shifters are concerned, if they come under the same rule as Shimano Di2, then it’s a bit of a stupid rule as you can’t hold the actual shifter to gain length without it changing gear.”

When Di2 was introduced, the UCI quickly clarified that the electronic shifters would be measured to the end. This allowed riders using mechanical shifting to ride effectively longer positions. And they still can, just not with return-to-center style shifters.

UCI commissaries at Tirreno-Adriatico said that they were told three weeks ago that the new rule was to be enforced immediately. The commissaries decided to warn teams at the opening team time trial stage that they would enforce the rule beginning at the race’s second time trial. Whether the officials will continue to agree on the “horizontal” aspect of the rule is not clear.

Brian Holcombe, at Tirreno-Adriatico, contributed to this report.

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