UCI’s Confusing Head Sock Ban Has Evenepoel Fuming

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

UCI’s controversial helmet saga, which began a month ago when cycling’s governing body said that a number of time trial helmets and helmet accessories, such as head socks, were illegal because they were being used to improve performance rather than safety, has again erupted in controversy.

At the time, the UCI said it would make an “in-depth analysis of the regulations governing the design and use of time trial helmets” and deemed the head sock “a non-essential component” and banned its use “at events on the UCI International Calendar, effective from 2 April 2024.” Take note of the date. Two weeks later, the body approved the use of Visma–Lease a Bike’s startling Giro time trial helmet – aka the “Star Wars helmet” – until 2025 but maintained the head sock ban.

The new controversy regarding the use of head socks features Soudal–Quick Step’s quick-tempered superstar Remco Evenepoel. Soudal was one of the teams who had been using the head sock as was the BORA-hansgrohe of Primož Roglič. Evenepoel and Roglič are facing off in this week’s high-profile Itzulia Basque Country along with a third elite rider, Jonas Vingegaard of Visma–Lease a Bike.

Their meeting was in the stage 1 10 km time trial, run on April 1, which was won by Roglič despite his taking a wrong turn near the finish line and having to double back. Evenepoel finished fourth, 11 seconds behind the Slovenian, with Vingegaard, riding in his Star Wars helmet, finishing fifth at 16 seconds.

Jonas Vingeegaard
The helmet saga continues. © Profimedia

After the stage, Evenepoel complained about the fact that Roglič had raced in a head sock and he hadn’t, thereby giving the winner an unfair aerodynamic advantage. “We were not allowed to use it. Bora-Hansgrohe did,” the reigning ITT world champion told Sporza. “On the UCI website, it says that it is banned from April 2. The UCI sent us an email that it would be banned from April 1. They don’t know themselves, I think. We were already told in Paris-Nice that it would be the last time.”

Later, speaking in English to journalists, he was a bit more conciliatory. “So how exactly did we get here and why the confusion?” he asked. “It appears that the UCI has been guilty of sending mixed messages.”

Evenepoel had roundly criticized the UCI’s decision to ban the head sock when it was made in March, saying at the time: “Two years ago, they authorised our helmet, and now they’re banning it. I kind of feel like they want to [mess with us],” Evenepoel said. “It’s not very friendly what they’re doing. There are other teams that are riding with a time trial helmet in the peloton. I’m thinking of EF Education-EasyPost. They [the UCI] are dragging cycling into the ridiculous and they’re making all the riders turn against the UCI.”

In a move that may or may not be related, the UCI’s Head of Road Cycling and Innovation, former rider Michael Rogers, announced he was resigning from his post. Rogers was responsible for the regulations regarding new technology, such as the head sock, and had either been against the new ITT helmet innovations or he had approved them but was overruled. He refuses to discuss it. “I will no longer work for the UCI at the end of March,” Rogers told Nieuwsblad. “I therefore do not think it is appropriate to speak out [about the helmet controversy].”

Somebody from the UCI probably should say a few words, just to calm the stormy waters.