Dutch cycling team given clearance to launch “space helmets”

Olav Kooij sporting the distinctive domed helmet in the Paris-Nice race on March 5. Photo: AFP/Thomas Samson via ANP

International cycling’s ruling body UCI has approved the controversial “space helmets” worn by Dutch team Visma-Lease a Bike despite reservations about the streamlined design.

The helmets turned heads and attracted ridicule in some quarters after they made their debut in time-trial races in Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice earlier this month.

The distinctive shape, with a large protruding point on top of the helmet, is supposed to make the riders more aerodynamic. But the UCI said helmets were introduced into the sport to improve safety, not performance.

“We are concerned about the trend in the design of time trial helmets that focus more on performance than the primary function of a helmet, namely to ensure the safety of the wearer in the event of a fall,” the governing body said.

Visma’s performance manager Mathieu Heijboer earlier criticised UCI for being influenced by emotion and the response to the helmets on social media. “If the UCI has a problem with the design, they should have indicated this when the helmet was submitted for approval,” he said.

UCI approved the helmets for use for the next 12 months after concluding that they did not breach the rules, but added that it would be conducting an in-depth analysis of its regulations.

The helmets must also be made available for sale to the general public under the conditions of the licence.

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