Michael Schär, the rider thrown out of the Tour of Flanders yesterday for tossing a water bottle towards a roadside spectator, says it was being given one on a trip to watch the Tour de France as a child that helped inspire him to become a professional cyclist.
The AG2R Citroën rider was chasing back after two bike changes when TV pictures showed him throwing the bidon towards a group of people on a corner, apparently realising straight away that in doing so he was in contravention of new UCI rules against littering.
When you realize you forgot new UCI regulations. pic.twitter.com/A9icwa1FIX
— Cycling out of context (@OutOfCycling) April 4, 2021
The new rules which came into effect on Thursday 1 April mean that items such as water bottle and gel wrappers can only be jettisoned in designated litter zones.
Sanctions that can be imposed by the race jury include the rider being disqualified from the race, as happened to Schär, being docked UCI world ranking points, or having a time penalty imposed.
The 34 year old Swiss rider took to Instagram this morning to recount in a post headed “Dear UCI – whay kids start cycling” how on a family trip to see the 1997 Tour de France, when he would have been aged 10, he was inspired to pursue a career as a pro cyclist.
“I remember it as it was yesterday,” he wrote. “My parents drove my sister and me to the 1997 Tour de France in the Jura. We drove to the parcours and waited there for hours in the middle of the crowds. Finally the publicity caravan arrived and we all [caught] some treats.
“Later the first police motos arrived and the helicopter was hovering [above] us. Exactly this electrifying atmosphere of the bunch approaching us was for me life changing. I was endlessly impressed by the speed and ease these riders could ride their bikes. I wanted nothing else in my life anymore than becoming a pro cyclist myself. From this moment on I was driven by a dream.
“On top of that impression I received a bottle from a Pro,” he continued. “This little plastic piece made my cycling addiction complete. Back home that bottle was reminding me every day of what my dream was. I rode my yellow Team Polti bottle every day in full pride. Every day.”
Schär continued: “Now I am one of these Pros who race through all of the happy spectators. During calm moments of the race I always keep my empty bottle until I see some kids next to the road. Then I throw them gently right where they can catch it safely. Two years ago I gave a bottle to a girl next to the road. Her parents told me the girl wasn’t only happy about this bottle for a day. No, she still talks about this bottle. And maybe one day she becomes a cyclist as well.
“These are moments why I love our sport,” he added. “Nobody ever can take that away from us. We are the most approachable sport who gives bottles along the way. Simple as that. Simple is Cycling.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc 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.