“I understand that we can’t throw bottles in the nature,” he wrote on Twitter. “But giving a bottle to a fan who is asking for one is something totally different.”
The cycling union said that the rules were made to promote rider safety and to respect the environment, and that riders, teams and race organizers had jointly adopted them in February. Cyclists had two months to prepare themselves, so the change should have come as no surprise, said Louis Chenaille, the spokesman for the cycling union.
“We firmly believe that these measures, which in some cases require changes in attitudes, will contribute to making cycling the sport of the 21st century,” he said in an email last week.
On Wednesday, the Professional Cycling Council — an association of riders, teams, organizers and the International Cycling Union — met online to discuss the controversies. They agreed to do away with immediate disqualification of riders who break the trash rules in a one-day race, reducing a first-time offense to a fine and loss of points. In a stage-race, disqualification now would happen after a third offense. The rule change will likely become effective on April 17, upon approval by the cycling union.
The effective ban on bidon-tossing remained in place. “Throwing bottles to the public, in particular, is a proven danger both for the riders and the public,” the cycling union said in a news release. The organization said the rule also helped discourage young fans from getting too close to riders while vying for a bidon and possibly getting hit by a rider or a vehicle.
Along with safety, the sheer volume of trash is a concern. For generations, many riders were, let’s say, less than respectful of the environment. They chucked sandwich wrappers over snow-covered Alpine cliffs. They hurled cotton musette bags, which hold riders’ snacks, into previously pristine rivers. They tossed bidons onto farms, at the feet of grazing cows and into fields of towering sunflowers. And some of that cavalier littering was caught on live TV.