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The UCI just made it a lot harder to cheat in a time trial next year

New rule goes into effect January 1

Well hold onto your socks, the UCI just updated a rule to stop pros from getting a bit of a push from follow cars in time trials. Several times in the past few years people have noticed that team cars are driving very close to riders in the individual events, and usually full of way too many spare bikes to seem logical. Many have said there’s no reason for a cyclist to have ten extra bikes in a short time trial. Instead, by stacking the roof rack, it creates a way to give the cyclist an advantage.

In March, for example, Filippo Ganna won the time trial opener of Tirreno-Adriatico. There’s no doubt he’s already one of the best time triallists in the sport, but for some reason his car had 12 spares for just a 14 km test. The reason for that, is most likely to help the cyclist.

According to retired Professor Jørn Hansen from The University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, the advantage is caused by a “bow wave.” If you’ve ever stood on a subway platform when the train is arriving, you’ll know the feeling of wind coming towards you. A bow wave is the wave that forms at the bow of a ship when it moves through the water.

Ganna’s follow car having so many extra rides makes total sense. The effect is that it creates a larger surface area to push air in front of him. Although the rule is currently 10 m, you often see cars much closer. The UCI seems to be cracking down on this. The latest rule update is increasing the distance even more, and the organization is going to be enforcing it more.

Apparently, pro cycling teams have mechanics scrambling to put up as many bikes as possible on the car to help bolster the effects of the bow wave. It may only be a second or two advantage, in a hotly contested time trials where the winner may only be a second or two ahead, it all helps.

“Taking into account the results of a scientific study on the aerodynamic impact generated by following vehicles, the minimum distance between a rider and the following team vehicle in time trials is increased from 10 to 15 meters,” the governing body posted in a statement.