Due to increasingly high speeds and the poor braking provided by carbon fiber rims, the UCI’s technical commission is studying the practicality of applying full-face helmets to road racing. According to VeloNews sources, the commission is concerned that helmets without face protection do not provide enough impact security in the event of a high-speed crash.
The initial proposal, put forth by the Spanish Euskaltel squad after a string of crashes during the early spring classics, would have full-face helmets worn on any descent following a climb rated Cat. 2 or above.
“Downhill racers actually hit lower top speeds than road cyclists,” said one UCI official, who requested anonymity due to the closed-door nature of the technical commission’s hearings. “And yet, they wear pads and full-face helmets while road cyclists do not. It simply makes no sense, from a safety perspective.”
The proposed rule, if passed, would go into effect just prior to the Tour de France, which contains 25 Category 2-or-above climbs. Riders would have the choice of donning a new helmet at the top of each long descent, or wearing one from the beginning of the stage.
“I, for one, do not welcome this,” said Tour contender Andy Schleck. “As I said last summer, I do not think a race should be decided on the downhill. More protection will make other riders take more risks, and go even faster. This is no good for me.”
“I would prefer that we just race up, and shuttle down,” he added. “Then, at the bottom, they let us go with the same time gap. The uphill is real racing, not this gravity nonsense.”