What does UCI mean in cycling

New rules & prohibitions: UCI prohibits supertucking and laying on of arms

Cycling: Last week it was announced that the UCI would like to ban the supertuck and the laying on of arms in the future. On April 1st, the new rules and bans come into force. We took a closer look at the topic and let the professionals have their say.

Prohibited from April 1st: Supertuck & the laying on of arms

No, it's not an April Fool's joke. From April 1st, the UCI no longer wants to see a professional who heats down the descents in the supertuck seated position or puts his arms on the handlebars in the time trial position. The World Cycling Federation justifies this with the argument of safety. The letter clearly states: “Sitting on the top tube is prohibited.” This seating position - known as the Supertuck - has become known in recent years primarily through Chris Froome. On the 8th stage of the 2016 Tour de France, he made such an attack over a knoll and gave his opponents a lead of 13 seconds.

On the level, we see many professionals putting their forearms on the handlebars, especially in breakaway groups. Why? Because there is less air resistance and the position is more comfortable. Actually no problem if the UCI would also allow time trial bars in road races. But the use of this was forbidden years ago. Since then, the professionals have been putting their arms on the handlebars in the same way - only without the corresponding attachment. This, too, will now be banned from April 1st.


What do these two seating positions actually bring?

Of course, the pure effect of the new bans was also scientifically analyzed and questioned, because there is hardly anything left in cycling that has not been researched. The aerodynamics specialists at SwissSide took a closer look at everything. Everything should be viewed neutrally here and only refer to the data.

What does the Supertuck bring?

The Supertuck has long been a tried and tested means of gaining a lead on a fast descent. Especially in order to be able to set yourself apart from a larger group or the main field, you have to show a significantly higher speed. It is not without reason that the Supertuck has not only become a downhill position, but almost a tactical variant. But how much faster is it really?

An aero test showed that the difference in air resistance at a realistic downhill speed of around 70 km / h is a whopping 135 watts. On a descent with an 8% gradient, you assume a 5km / h higher maximum speed if you choose the supertuck position. This saves about 30 seconds of time on a 10 kilometer descent.

In other words: A rider gets about 30 seconds ahead on the descent if he chooses the supertuck position and his opponent stays in the saddle. If this position is no longer allowed, this tactic is dropped. However, one must of course also say that so far both outliers and pursuers have taken the position and therefore this advantage is likely to have canceled itself out. It will probably still be much more the driving line, the acceleration after the corners and the willingness to take risks that make the difference on descents - supertuck or not.

What brings "Lay on your arms / time trial position"?

The second controversial rule is the prohibition of laying one's arms. Outliers or sprint preparers in particular have often made use of it on the flat in order to save energy through the time trial-like position. This position also gives you a great aero advantage compared to the lower link. At a real speed of 50 to 60 km / h, the difference is between position in the lower link with arms half bent or "Time trial position" between 24 and 41 watts.

On a 10 km route with typical performance for a road race, it takes about 13 seconds. Assuming that everyone rides in the same position, i.e. both the leader of the breakaway group and that of the pursuers, there would be no difference. In reality, however, the chasing group has rarely been as disciplined as the runaways and has not always taken the best aero position compared to them. In the final in particular, this certainly created a lot more excitement and gave the outliers a little more chance of taking the win home.

Many professionals criticize the UCI's bans

Chris Froome loves him, Lance Armstrong hates him. The supertuck even divides the pros. One thing is clear, however: This aerodynamic seating position has an advantage in terms of speed and therefore time. The drivers still feel safe. That is why many professionals are critical of the bans.

Rick Zabel:
"So now it's getting ridiculous."

Iljo Keisse:
“We will decide for ourselves how we cycle and ride. At the UCI you should first make sure that everything is okay, what you are responsible for ... "

Matteo Trentin:
"I'm sorry to have to say that, but all you had to do was check your email and download the rule suggestions. Now to tweet that they haven't been informed is easy. But emails were sent to over 800 drivers and I can tell you that only 16 drivers have downloaded the information. "

Simon Geschke:
“And what about the downhill sprints, like the one on the Tour of Poland last year that almost killed someone?

What about downhill sprints like the one in the @Tour_de_Pologne last year that nearly killed someone @UCI_cycling? https://t.co/x55A7dfHXs

- Simon Geschke (@simongeschke) February 4, 2021

Comment from Florian Nowak: "Were these positions really the biggest safety problem in cycling ?!"

Basically, you have to assess the two bans independently of each other. The Super tuck is one thing, there is no real need here to take this supposedly dangerous position. In all honesty: Anyone who has already driven this way will quickly notice that it doesn't feel really pleasant - in the sense of comfortable. Nevertheless, we are in professional and racing sports and unfortunately you now take risks and push yourself to the limit. Here in particular, the role model function of the professional cyclists is thrown into the ring to justify this ban. However, this role model function can be transferred to all other sports and areas of life. Regardless of whether it is motor racing, where drivers drive around a curve at over 300 km / h or the ski racer who rushes down the Streif in Kitzbühel at 140 km / h, every sport brings idols, heroes and role models with it, a certain one Bear responsibility. Nevertheless, these are still perfectly trained athletes who do nothing other than, in this case, cycling. You wouldn't recommend any young rider or hobby rider to tackle 200 kilometers in 0 degrees and pouring rain, but here they turn a blind eye or just give a reason "They are professionals" worked. Nevertheless, this prohibition can at least partially be justified.

The second innovation - the prohibition of the Lay on your arms - but for many the bird shoots the bird and raises considerable questions as to whether this really is such a major safety problem in professional cycling. From this point at the latest, the demands of the professionals seem to be more than justified, first of all to strive for better safety concepts and to take the actual danger out of the races through improved barriers or routes. In addition, from my point of view there is another, not exactly insignificant point of criticism. Because the laying on of arms brings at least some variety to the very restricted seating positions for every cyclist. Here I am sometimes wondering whether those responsible have ever driven 200 kilometers even for several days in a row. Every now and then you just have to take the pressure off your palms and walk a few meters or kilometers in a different position. I also often ride with my arms on the handlebars for a long time during training and this is really not about speed advantages or the like.

In conclusion, I just want to ask an open question in the room:
There is currently only one active professional who publicly endorses the new rules
and campaigns for the supertuck to be banned?