UCI Cyclocross Rules ExplainedAlbert Einstein once said, “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”

If you’re like most of us, you don’t have much ambition to beat Page, Johnson or Trebon at at domestic race, let alone battle Nys and Wellens over in Europe. But perhaps you still have plans to toe the line with the big guns at a UCI-sanctioned race this fall, or will battle other folks your age in a top level junior or espoir race at a UCI sanctioned event or masters worlds. Even if that’s not the case, you still never know if this is the season it all comes together, mandatory upgrades happen, and you make the leap from C’s to A’s. In any of these situations, you’ll need to be familiar with the UCI rules that may govern your event before you get to that start line.

Although there are hundreds of pages of UCI regulations, Cyclocross Magazine has spent hours culling through all of them so you’ll be prepared. While we covered the no disc brakes while training rule a few days ago, there’s a lot more to know.

Here are 5 top common violations of UCI rules that you should be sure to avoid:

5. Wearing something other than shorts.

That’s right. You can’t wear knickers, and shouldn’t wear tights with a built in chamois. Thinking of wearing that long dress instead? Not in a UCI race. It’s gotta be above the knee, regardless of temperature!

1.3.026 When competing, all riders shall wear a jersey with sleeves and a pair of shorts, possibly in the form of a one-piece skinsuit. By shorts it is understood that these are shorts that come above the knee.

Now you’re probably thinking you can get past that rule by wearing shorts with knee warmers, or shorts with tights or knickers on top. Well, not so fast. You may think you’re clever, but the UCI has a rule to avoid such craftiness. You’ll then be guilty of violation #4:

4. Wearing something “non-essential”

Racing in 20 degree temperatures through ice and snow in New England, I really appreciated thicker, windproof tights over my shorts. Were they essential? Well, although many parts of my body appreciated them, it’s arguable I would have survived without them (just without the possibility of ever having kids). But in all likelihood, I was in violation of this UCI rule:

1.3.033 It shall be forbidden to wear non-essential items of clothing [or items designed to reduce air resistance].

Don’t be alarmed if your local UCI official starts frisking you and asking you to undress at the next race. If you fly a lot, you don’t have to worry – it’ll be just like TSA security. And if you can get used to that start-and-stop nature of airport security, it might help you avoid violation #3:

3. Not varying your race pace, or not recuperating

This is why I’m always getting passed so often in races…all those riders are cheating! Don’t they understand we’re required by the UCI to ease up sometimes? Sure, it’s racing, but we’re supposed to recuperate too! By my book, if you’re breathing hard for most of the race, or finish the race wanting to vomit, then either you or the promoter has violated this UCI rule:

5.1.012 A cyclo-cross course shall include road, country and forest paths and meadowland alternating in such a way as to ensure changes in the pace of the race and allowing riders to recuperate after difficult sections.

Recuperation at its finest - SSCXWCThis is a rule that I’m quite familiar with, and just wish UCI officials (and USA cycling officials as well) should enforce much more often. My experience has been that ‘cross is always difficult, and folks just accept it. But they don’t have to. ‘Cross isn’t, by rule, supposed to be so difficult. It should only have a few difficult sections, but the rest should be ridden to recuperate, at a pace that encourages friendly conversation. Consider it like a yellow flag in car racing. Sadly, my past attempts to get others to obey this rule, say after a run-up or long sand section, have been complete failures. Folks balk at my requests to slow down and chat, and sprint off in disgust. I should be disgusted with them. They’re the cheaters!

But racers aren’t the only ones to blame. Promoters should stop creating such hard courses. Mud? Sand? Snow? Ice? Barriers? How can one recuperate in such harsh conditions? The only race and promoter that have proactively enforced this rule has been Dani Dance at the SSCXWC, via the infamous tequila pit. Now that was some recuperation.

Once you start recuperating, you can now pay more attention to the scenery to make sure you’re not committing violation #2:

2. Racing your cyclocross bike in rural areas or farmlands

That’s right. If you’re ever raced through a farm field, and enjoyed that lovely fragrance of animal feces or ridden through deep puddles, you’ve likely violated this cyclocross rule:

5.1.013 The course shall be usable in all circumstances, whatever the weather conditions. Clay or easily flooded areas and agricultural land should be avoided.

I looked up the definition of agricultural land, and it’s rural land or land that involves crops or livestock. So if you find your favorite UCI race in the boonies or in farm land, don’t go! It’s a trap! All those ‘cross races in rural areas are illegal. And so that also means all those races in Connecticut my teammates and I referred to as the “Cow Dung Races” and the fun and pseudo-muddy “Horse Sh!t Races” in Livermore and Watsonville in Norcal are pretty much UCI illegal, along with many other races in Belgium and really, throughout the world. But this rule is a good one. If this rule was enforced more often, I’d have saved a lot of gas, and would have avoided burning a few dozen stank jerseys.

Hopefully the above rules haven’t ruined your passion for the sport and forced you into retirement. And hopefully you’re not over 65 on Social Security, or a retired former pro racer. Because if any of those are true, you might be guilty of violation #1:

1. Retired people showing up, racing and crossing the finish line!

Yes, this is the most common violation of UCI Cyclocross regulations. Here’s the rule many don’t know about:

5.1.050 A retired rider must leave the course immediately and does not have the right to cross the finish line.

Ned Overend Dominates Normal Old Guys with Normal LungsNed Overend is one of the worst offenders of this rule. Having retired in 1996, he still has the balls to show up to the national championships, enters the course, and not only crosses the finish line, but usually does it in first place! Granted, nationals isn’t a UCI race, but USA Cycling often follows UCI regulations, and should stop Ned and all these other retired folks from entering their age-group races. Why even have a 65+ and 70+ category? Most if not all of these men and women are mostly retired.
See an older guy or woman pass you? Or think you saw an former pro lap you? Ask the rider if he is retired to see if you can him or her disqualified.

Now that you’re up to date on the most important UCI Cyclocross rules, you ready to start putting together your next season’s plan to make sure you can “play better everyone else.” We’ll see you at the next non-rural, non-flooded, fully-recuperating, only-shorts-allowed, can’t-be-retired, UCI cyclocross event.