Exclusive: UCI mandates watts per kilogram limit

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Cadel Evans, Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Froome at the recent Tour of Oman (Getty)
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The technical commission of cycling’s world governing body has adopted a new technology and policy framework which it hopes will bring competitive balance back to the WorldTour and open up the sport to further investment.

Look at Formula One and the National Football League in the US. Technological and sporting balance has made both the envy of the sporting world, ensuring massive television audiences and investment. Anything we can do to move the sport forward, including slowing down the riders, is worthwhile.

Sources close to the International Cycling Union (UCI) told Cycling Central that from 1 January 2014 all professional road teams will have to comply with a watts per kilogram limit for riders.

"The technical commission, along with the UCI, has been working on a breakthrough technology for four years. Along with the technology we have had to implement new rules mandating a 6.0 watts per kilogram limit which we believe is the pinnacle of human performance on a bicycle."

The simple device measuring technology, designed in the top secret UCI Skunk Works Project buried in a mountain outside Aigle, Switzerland, called the 'Limiter', will be fitted to all professional bikes and will 'brake' a rider once he reaches the newly mandated performance limit.

The device, seen by Cycling Central in emailed images, fits inside the rear hub of a bicycle and will progressively apply a slowing effect on a bike and rider.

"Junior riders are limited to reduced gearing for racing and we’ve decided to apply a similar but more sophisticated approach to the professional level," sources told Cycling Central.

"This decision, along with the success of the biological passport programme, is designed to not only restore competitive balance to professional cycling, but to bring credibility back to the sport, hit hard by the Lance Armstrong scandal.

"Today's riders, like Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, are capable of reaching 6.8 watts per kilo for over half an hour, and just riding away from the peloton to the finish. We think that's boring and just turns off the average sporting fan. From 2014 the high mountain stages will be more exciting with a sprint of 20 or more riders."

However some critics are calling the device and watts per kilogram limit the "Sky Rule", specifically designed to halt the recent domination of the British squad.

"This is absolutely outrageous," said a source claiming to be inside the team, but who wished to remain anonymous. "We have put massive amounts of time, development and money into achieving the highest performance levels ever seen in professional cycling.

"We already comply with a number of UCI rules like the limits on sock height and the number of grams of muesli you can eat at a pre-race breakfast. What's next? No training holidays in Tenerife?

"It's incredible that the UCI will limit what we can do with a simple $10 dollar part sourced from RadioShack. Wiggo (Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins), Richie (Porte) and Froomedog (Chris Froome) will be ropeable."

A noted UCI critic, who declined to go on the record, told Cycling Central the new rules are just another version of the old 50 per cent hematocrit limit instituted under past UCI President Hein Verbruggen.

"This just shows the UCI is unable to learn from the mistakes of the past," he said. "This will do nothing to enhance the credibility of the sport. All this will do is ensure that riders will cut whatever corners they can to get to the limit."

But UCI sources remained insistent, saying the rules were also integral to the globalisation of the sport.

"Look at Formula One and the National Football League in the US. Technological and sporting balance has made both the envy of the sporting world, ensuring massive television audiences and investment. Anything we can do to move the sport forward, including slowing down the riders, is worthwhile."

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