When Wout Van Aert imitated the wings of a bird to celebrate crossing the finish line first in stage four of the 2022 Tour de France, people’s immediate reactions suggested he had it pre-planned. , designed to further showcase the sponsor – Red Bull – adorned on his helmet.
Indeed, Red Bull’s slogan ‘gives you wings’ fits perfectly with Van Aert’s celebration, especially considering the Belgian is one of three riders in the men’s pro peloton sponsored by the energy drink maker. carbonated. The other two are Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) and Anton Palzer (Bora-Hansgrohe), a former ski mountaineer and runner and mountaineer.
However, speaking after that Tour stage win, Van Aert insisted that with his arms flapping he “wanted to show that the jersey gives me wings”.
Of his attack, the Belgian said: “I felt like flying in the last 10 kilometers, and it was real; it was special to ride alone with the yellow jersey and do a stage like this.”
As dubious as Van Aert’s explanation is, it turns out that the UCI has no rules preventing riders from displaying personal sponsorship during races, only that (opens in a new tab) “the helmet must be approved in accordance with the safety standards in force, must not have been modified and must not have suffered an impact or been involved in an accident”.
Instead, teams regulate which sponsors their riders are allowed to feature, with decisions often depending on whether the specific brand conflicts with one the team already has an agreement with.
In the case of Wout Van Aert, Jumbo-Visma is comfortable with him without the helmet provided by the team. Initially, the Belgian only used his Red Bull-sponsored protection in cyclo-cross races, but at the start of the 2022 season he announced that he would wear it on the road as well.
While Jumbo-Visma did not respond to weekly cycling on why Van Aert now always wears the helmet, it’s possible Red Bull has the potential to improve the sponsors, making the deal mutually beneficial.
A Dutch and Belgian supermarket chain, title sponsor Jumbo has the opportunity to benefit from having one of the biggest names in cycling advertise a product it sells in its stores, in addition to holding a brand team that he also wears.
Meanwhile, Pidcock wore a Red Bull helmet while racing in national team colors at the 2021 Road World Championships, but the Briton did not use sponsored gear to represent his team, Ineos Grenadiers, at the road races. This rule does not apply to off-road events, however, with Pidcock being allowed to use his Red Bull helmet in cyclocross and mountain bike racing.
Speculatively, one of the reasons Pidcock doesn’t wear his Red Bull helmet in road races is because the brand doesn’t benefit Ineos – who also own a third of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team, where Red Bull Racing is a direct rival.
Another reason could center on the deal between Red Bull and Pidcock – simply put, its financial value. Ineos Grenadiers also did not respond to weekly cycling however to back up these suggestions.