Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Bottles, borracce, bidone!

 Bottles, bottles, everywhere!

What's up with bottles this season, especially at the Giro d'Italia?

The race leader at LeTour was penalized for taking one too close to the race finish and a team director threw a fit (and the bottle to the ground out of the car window) when the race jury told him his rider would be penalized for taking one the other day at Il Giro.

Between those two incidents a race favorite crashed out of La Corsa Rosa after hitting a bottle in the road before the day's stage had even officially started!

So now the cycling-enthusiast press and keyboard experts (at least in the English-speaking cycling world) who comment on their websites are shrieking that something must be done about bottle cages!

Perhaps it's just because we see more of the races on TV and streaming these days, but from our point-of-view there do seem to be more bottles used in pro cycling these days. Back-in-the-day riders used to "train" themselves to do without water, which if course was not the greatest idea, but the pendulum has swung way, way back the other way it seems.

We're not sure if the rules have changed or perhaps they're being abused but it seems team staff are stationed around every corner with bottles for their riders. Sometimes it looks like the feed bags are filled only with bottles! Handing a gregario a series of bottles from the team car to stuff into his jersey to supply his teammates is more rare these days. Instead there's a staff member at the roadside handing 'em up. Trouble is, it's harder to hand 'em up when the staff person is stationary and the rider goes by at 20-30 kph.

Plenty of these bottles end up in the road. Riders toss away the bottles they have in anticipation of getting fresh ones and even squirt out half the contents before putting the fresh ones into the bottle cage! 

These days you see plenty of riders tossing bottles up and out of the peloton and a lot of 'em don't appear to be empty. Loose bottles (whether tossed by riders or falling out of flimsy cages) don't always vanish into the hands of a spectator, instead bouncing back into the road as happened to the Giro race favorite the other day. 
These days many teams use a biodegradable bottle like the one shown above. We've picked a few up from the roadside (very few were empty) and they DO seem more slippery than the standard ones we use while made from much thinner material. Perhaps these don't stay in the bottle cages as well, especially when wet?  Worse, flimsy plastic bottle cages don't help.

If the teams REALLY cared about any of this, they'd use more substantial bottle cages like the one shown above. The maker* claims this will hold bottles on the pave of Paris-Roubaix while weighing just 40 grams. The cycling-enthusiast press whines that something must be done by the UCI but they are as responsible for this issue as anyone! How? When you read a review about the newest-latest bottle holder, rarely is anything mentioned about its ability to hold the bottle(s) it's all about how much it weighs, how cool it looks and how easy it is to remove and replace the bottle(s) while you're riding.

Does the UCI REALLY need to get involved in testing and certifying bottle cages? Those calling for "something to be done"  constantly whine about draconian regulations they see as destroying innovation and evolution of cycling equipment...but now that one of their favorite riders has crashed out a race they were certain he would win - regulations are sorely needed?

Regulations Zio Lorenzo would support would be those to cut down on the amount of bottles used and then discarded. Making them biodegradable is a great idea but why toss so many away to start with? Why give so many out when many are tossed away after the gel packet attached to them has been removed (or vice-versa) or the contents dumped onto the road? Require bottles and other litter be disposed of in specific zones (as has been done by some organizers) or returned to the team car. 

A few fines (and better yet, time penalties!) for infractions of these rules would solve this problem quickly. Flimsy plastic bottle cages that allow the bottles to fall out when the rider hits a bump would be way too risky to be worth the 10 grams they might save in weight.

*Disclaimer: We have no relationship with Elite, this bottle cage just seemed a reasonable solution at no real weight penalty though we've never tried one, instead preferring metal cages that can be adjusted (bent) to provide as much retention as you desire.

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