Blazing row over saddles on the Tour de France

LES ESSARTS, France Sun Jul 3, 2011 2:08pm EDT

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LES ESSARTS, France (Reuters) - Two team officials were fined after rows broke out over the strict enforcement of a regulation on saddles in the Tour de France on Sunday.

Team Radioshack manager Johan Bruyneel was fined 200 Swiss francs ($235.891) for improper conduct toward officials in the zone where the bikes were being checked, organizers said.

Team Saxo Bank sports director Bradley McGee was also fined after one of his staff members was found guilty of improper conduct.

International Cycling Union (UCI) regulations state that saddles need to be parallel to the ground, but the rule had not been strictly enforced before Sunday's second stage, a 23-km time trial around Les Essarts.

"Before it just had to be 'flatish', now it has to be perfectly flat to the ground," BMC team chief mechanic Ian Sherburne told Reuters.

"They were insisting that the saddle be perfectly level which isn't how the rules had been interpreted. They're deciding to enforce the rule in a different way, right now."

Bruyneel said the timing of the action was bad. "We had the same saddle settings at the Tour of Switzerland and the Dauphine (last month) and it was not a problem," Bruyneel told Reuters.

"Now they decide to do this on the biggest race in the world."

Sherburne said team mechanics had to change the angle of the saddles before the start of the stage.

The UCI said it had warned the teams last month that the regulations would be strictly applied.

"That's what happens in this milieu," UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani told Reuters by telephone. "You just want to enforce a rule and everybody is protesting."

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

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