I'm trying to understand the reasoning behind the no-feeding in the last 20 km rule. In the Tour de France 2020 Julian Alaphilippe lost his lead due to an infraction of this rule.
Might it be:
- The competitors are in full sprint. It's too risky to be distracted by using one hand for food/drink.
- It's unhealthy for the competitors, since for the food to be beneficial, it'll have to be pure glucose. There is too little time left to digest anything more complex, and if they don't get it exactly right, they could "hit the wall".
- Food in the last stretch starts to act as a deciding factor. A team that discovers a concoction that provides an unfair advantage would win based purely on that food/drink, not the ability of the racers.
I'm sure the reasoning is well established. Is it also well known? More personally, does the rule matter for the amateur? Is there any reason why an amateur should not eat/drink in the last ~20% (if not 20 km) of a trip?
- (The following thought emerges from Vladimir's and Weiwen's answers.) Might I have been sloppily confusing the verbs "feeding" and "feeding oneself", and might the rule be more easily expressible in the precision of French's distinction between reflexive and non-reflexive verbs? In other words, it is perfectly allowed to feed oneself ("se nourir") during the last 20 km. What's not allowed is to give (or take) food from someone else ("nourir"). The rule would be clearer if we start to split hairs and ask whether it's allowed for a helper ("domestique") to pass some food to a hungry (and more important) team leader during the last 20 km.
Gratuitous and unrelated comment/question, now that I'm noticing that all the cars clear out during the last 20 km: How do the cyclists tolerate inhaling the exhaust of so many cars during the race until the 20-km mark? It's one thing for a (gasoline) car to pass by; it's another to remain behind it—inhaling the discernibly worse air—for hours on end.