Many of us reacted angrily in 2015 when Richie Porte was penalised for receiving a wheel from a mate on another team during the Giro. Whilst the Combine doesn’t deal with the complexity of teams and convoys, we run into mechanical issues at most races. We recommend that racers be self-sufficient. It’s best not to rely on support when we are racing on largely empty roads. Further to this I would strongly recommend having a well maintained bike with good tyres (not cut to shreds) - this shows respect to the race and that you have come prepared to win. However sometimes stuff happens.
Officially outside assistance during the race is prohibited. Section 3.44.05 of the Technical Regulations states: “Servicing of breakdowns and the changing of bicycles or wheels shall only be carried out by the authorised vehicles. All service must be taken on the left hand side of the road and no service is permitted from a moving vehicle.” Then section 3.44.06 states: “Rider who accept unauthorised assistance/support from a person outside the race convoy may be disqualified.” Given that the Combine doesn’t allow race convoys (support vehicles), the only assistance you can officially receive during a race is either from yourself, a Commissaire or a sag wagon.
Practically we do think these rules make sense and largely enforce them. There may be exceptional circumstances where providing assistance between riders or from another person isn’t noticed – this would generally be when it has no impact on the race outcome at all, such as a rider being stuck on the side of the road a long way from contesting any results. Of course if there is a medical or safety issue this takes precedence.
Comms can act as neutral service. We want to assist you with performing well and having a good race. Most of the time (not always) we are happy to put your equipment in the back of our cars during the race. Just need to keep a few things in mind to make this simple:
- Comms are a neutral service, so anything you put in our car can be used by other riders, including spare wheels. We will write down if we give equipment to anybody during the race.
- It is best to put your name, number and mobile on any equipment you leave in our cars. We have a lot of information to consider during a race so don’t rely on us remembering who you are. Personally with wheels, I write this on an index card and then poke the skewer through the card.
- Whilst Comms generally want to help you, we are dealing with many on-the-day issues before a race and your request to carry equipment isn’t a priority. It is best to ask us to take equipment in the last 15 minutes before race start.
- We will follow the race leaders, which may be in front of you.
- Your equipment is your responsibility, so pick it up quickly after the race.
Just a month after the Porte incident at the Giro, we ran into a similar issue. During a race a rider punctured. The rider and another racer pulled over with the other racer sacrificing his own race by offering a wheel. Whilst this may seem like a selfless act, it is considered external assistance and therefore was a breach of the mechanical assistance rules.
Overall although we hate to see mechanicals determine race outcomes and want to help, but you shouldn’t rely on assistance if something happens. Best to have a well maintained bike if you want to win.
I hope that helps. You can email if you have any questions about this or Comms’ topics you’d like to hear about.