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UCI president Lappartient backs banning of power meters

Joe Robinson
2 Nov 2018

Lappartient aims to preserve 'attractiveness of sport', with the launch of new group to assess issues from power meters to budget caps

UCI president David Lappartient has backed calls to ban the use of power meters in competition. This follows last week's plea from ASO and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme to outlaw power meters as they 'annihilate the glorious uncertainty of sport'.

Speaking to a select group of journalists this morning, Lappartient admitted that he would personally be in favour of banning the live use of power meters during the race but allowing riders and teams to analyse numbers retrospectively, once the stage or race is completed.

'I am a supporter of this [banning power meters]. It's important for riders and teams after the stage to understand their limits so I'm not calling for a ban altogether, but just live,' said Lappartient.

'Riders will ride at a certain wattage and because they know their limits they will not follow attacks. It's something we need to work on. It's open for debate and that debate can come from a large group of individuals but we can get somewhere.'

This comes after Tour organiser Prudhomme recently asked Lappartient to consider the banning of power meters in competition at the unveiling of the 2019 Tour route. 

Prudhomme commented that 'power meters are very useful in training but when riders use them in a race it means they know exactly what kind of efforts they need to make – for how long and at this or that level.'

He then attested that without the use of a power meter, a rider would be blind to this effort, therefore bringing back the element of uncertainty. 

Team Sky have dominated the Tour de France in recent times, taking six of the previous seven editions, riding in a familiar manner in the high mountains that sees multiple domestiques ride to a predetermined tempo in support of their team leader regardless of the race around them.

The UCI attempted to peg back this dominance in 2018 by reducing the number of riders per team at a Grand Tour from nine to eight, but this proved unsuccessful with Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas taking home the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France respectively.

While the use of power meters has been extremely effective in delivering success for Team Sky, it has brought sustained criticism with some claiming that this form of racing has been harmful to the image of the Tour and, more widely, the sport. 

Lappartient is clear that he does not blame Team Sky for this method of racing and he recognises that it is a potential problem in furthering the image of a sport that he believes has fulfilled less of its potential than any other major sport.

This has led the UCI into launching a group, as of 5th December, that will analyse and assess the attractiveness of the sport and the measures that can be implemented, from small things such as the banning of power meters, to larger things such as introducing a budget cap, in order to preserve the view of cycling around the world.

'Team Sky are a strong team with big budgets,' sais Lappartient. 'They ride the Tour to win but that is not the problem. The problem is the impact on the attractiveness of cycling on it's most well-known race.

'A way of ensuring the attractiveness of cycling will be through a group I am launching in December that will assess this very issue and not just issues of budget but also the smaller details, such as power meters.'

However, the Breton, who is now 14 months into his presidential term, did admit that he was unsure how to close the budget disparity in professional cycling – a disparity that sees Team Sky spend almost double their rival WorldTour teams each year.

'The common goal for all should be to help the appeal of cyclists,' Lappartient said. 'I cannot blame Sky for this issue and realise part of the responsibility lies with organisations like ourselves. This new group should help with this issue.'

A women's Paris-Roubaix on the horizon

Also discussed at length was the issue of gender parity in cycling that Lappartient was clear in stating was not to the standard he believes it should be. 

Part of the blame he leaves at the door of Prudhomme and the ASO, which has yet to put substantial plans in place for a women's Tour de France, remaining instead with its single-day La Course race.

Lappartient realises that a like-for-like three-week Grand Tour may not be the answer but sees no reason why ASO cannot introduce a race of ten days and even some further Classics.

'A whole Tour would be difficult but I believe that a women's race could follow the final 10 days of the men's Tour, taking on the same course. Not the same start but maybe the final 120km to 150km of each day,' Lappartient said.

'I don't understand the need for seven hours of men's TV coverage. Instead, we could have images from the women's race and then switch to the men's once finished.'

Plans to launch a women's Paris-Roubaix are also in the works, not just in the discussion phase but rather the action phase, with a race expected to be launched within the next two seasons.