The Tour de France, cycling's premier, most prestigious, most demanding and, arguably, most dangerous challenge, is going soft, it has been reported.
The gruelling event where many of the seasoned and ultra-fit competitors consider it a lifetime achievement if they merely manage to finish the race - after an uncomfortable three weeks in the saddle, 21 stages, 2,069 miles, 3,329 km, having struggled up the most arduous and difficult mountain climbs anywhere on the planet, and sprinted into Paris - has become too risky, say the organisers, and they intend to make it safer.
The Union Cycliste International (UCI) has given its support to the changes.
After several riders were injured in a crash with the support motorcycle from the Séver-Risqué team in 2017, the Tour authorities have decided to dispense with motorcycle support teams altogether, and have teams equip their riders' bicycles with panniers. All kinds of things can be stored in the panniers, from sandwiches, bananas, hi-energy drinks, and a spare pair of clean underpants, just in case. The panniers can be either canvas, wickerwork or wooden.
Another improvement in safety is the rule that will ensure every bicycle has a bell. Riders being unaware of the presence of other riders was one of the chief reasons for crashes, the UCI found. It's thought something as obvious as the tinkling of a bell could prevent horrific accidents, injury and even death, in extreme circumstances.
All riders will also be required to go to France one week before the start of the race for a Cycle Proficiency Test. Any rider that does not pass the test, must fix a pair of stabilisers to his bike. For way too long now, say the authorities, the sprint finishes have become far too dangerous, with riders tilting their bikes this way and that to gain extra speed in their rush to the line. Stabilisers will put a stop to that.
And finally, more on the subject of cleanliness than safety, all teams must ensure their competitors' bikes are fitted with mudguards and chainguards. It's no fun if you are hanging on the wheel of a rival, and the rain starts coming down. Before long, the spray flying up off his back wheel has spattered your face and filled your eyes until you're half-blind, but mudguards will prevent this. A chainguard will help to stop riders' socks becoming clarted-up with oil and mud, and the work of the teams' laundry staff will be easier.
A spokesman for UCI said something in French.