No beards! The Belgian pro cycling team that bans facial fuzz

Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise's Walter Planckaert says he wants to preserve the "elegance" of cycling - so team won't recruit riders with beards...

Walter Planckaert, sports director at Belgian UCI Professional Continental team Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, has revealed it has a rather unusual recruitment policy – it won’t sign riders with beards.

He told Het Nieuwsblad at the weekend that the decision was based on preserving “the elegance of the sport.”

The 1976 Tour of Flanders winner continued: “We’re cyclists, not motocross riders or rugby players.

“I’ve nothing against motocross, but a rider with a beard doesn’t fit.”

To emphasise his point, he added: “Snot and food stay in a rider’s beard. That’s filthy.”

He told the newspaper that a bit of stubble, such as is sported by Philippe Gilbert or Greg van Avermaet, is fine in his book, but a full beard is not, and that if a rider refused to shave “he has to find another team.”

Besides elegance, however, there is a sound cycling reason for keeping clean shaven if wind tunnel research conducted by Specialized at its headquarters in Morgan Hill, California, is to be believed.

> Video: To beard or not to beard?

So, who needn’t apply for a place on the team – or at least, should make sure they’ve got rid of the facial fluff when they meet Planckaert?

Well, Sir Bradley Wiggins, should he ever decide to come out of retirement, would have to get rid of his beard and – going by this footage of him at the unveiling of a memorial to Tom Simpson earlier this month – also get a short back and sides for good measure.

There’d be no place either for German pro cyclist and Tour de France stage winner Simon Geschke, nor for three-time world champion Peter Sagan or indeed the Namibian rider, Dan Craven, among others.

And should Zimbabwe-born long-distance cyclist Sean Conway ever fancy turning pro, well, that’s one team he needn’t send his CV to …

Sean Conway

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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