The Chainlink

April 14, 2021, 12:01 a.m. ET

Alex Howes, an American cyclist on the EF Education-Nippo team, heard a familiar sound from roadside fans at the Itzulia Basque Country race in Spain last week.

“Bidon! Bidon!” they cried out, imploring him to throw the bottle he held in his hand. Bidon is cycling lingo and the French word for water bottle, and the fans pleaded for one as a race souvenir, Covid-19 and backwash be damned.

Catching a bidon thrown by a rider is a cycling tradition; it’s the sport’s version of getting a foul ball at a baseball game. But evidently it is not sacred in the eyes of the International Cycling Union, the sport’s global governing body. The organization instituted new rules that prevent riders from tossing trash, including bidons, anywhere but in specified areas, effectively putting an end to the spontaneous toss-and-catch ritual that has lasted for decades.

The rules went into effect on April 1, and afterward Howes could only apologize to fans.

“I’m so sorry, guys, but I can’t,” Howes recalled saying to the crowd as his pockets and jersey were stuffed with used bidons. “I want to keep my job here.”

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