UCI president Brian Cookson says that the Giro d'Italia race jury acted correctly in penalising Richie Porte and Simon Clarke after the wheel-change incident

UCI president Brian Cookson showed little mercy for Sky’s Richie Porte. The Australian received a hefty two-minute penalty on Tuesday for receiving a wheel from rival team Orica-GreenEdge while the Giro d’Italia sped into Forlì.

Porte slipped from third overall at 22 seconds to 12th at 3-09 minutes as a result of the stage 10 incident. He lost 47 seconds to leader Alberto Contador, but that grew to 2-47 when the UCI jury applied a rule that prohibits help from a rival team. In this case, Australian Simon Clarke (Orica) stopped to put his front wheel in Porte’s bike while Porte waited for his team-mates at seven kilometres to race.

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“It was an unfortunate incident for everyone, but the rule is there, it’s clear, it’s not a new rule,” Cookson told Cycling Weekly.

UCI president Brian Cookson

UCI president Brian Cookson says the Giro d’Italia race jury acted correctly in penalising Porte and Clarke

“The penalty is quite clear and I think the commissaires acted in the right way.”

The four-man jury based its decision on UCI rule 12.1.040 / 8.2, “Non-regulation assistance to a rider of another team”. It penalised both Porte and Clarke two minutes in the overall classification and fined them 200 Swiss Francs each.

Critics argue the jury gave Porte the death penalty and ignored the fair play gesture of Clarke. Though much can change in the upcoming week before the Giro finishes in Milan on May 31, the decision essentially turned a three-man Giro battle into a two-man battle between Contador and Fabio Aru (Astana).

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“The simple fact is the race conduct is in the hands of the jury. It’d be anarchy if the UCI overruled from time to time the decision of the jury. We don’t do that,” Cookson said.

“They made the correct decision, it was unfortunate for Richie, the team, but the rule is there for a good reason. Riders and teams are professional, one expects them to know the rules.”

Television images often show riders pacing themselves back to the group via the team cars, ‘sticky bottles’ or ‘magic spanners’. Many yesterday pointed to Contador taking off his helmet mid-race to change his cap underneath and said that that required an automatic disqualification based on rule 12.1.040 / 3.3.

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“It’s clear that at times the transgression does not affect the outcome of a race and therefore there are rules where there is some flexibility, but when it happens like this, when a race is full on, near the finish, to a rider who is a contender and at the top positions of the GC, then really the commissaries have no option but to be firm,” Cookson said

“While it was a sporting gesture, it could be seen as an unfair gesture, the teams are nine riders, not 10. Would an Australian give his wheel to Aru or Contador? That’s why there are those kind of rules, a team is a team.”

Simon Clarke helps Richie Porte after a flat tyre on stage ten of the 2015 Giro d'Italia

Simon Clarke helps Richie Porte after a flat tyre on stage ten of the 2015 Giro d’Italia

Clarke said that he had acted on instinct.

“That certainly wasn’t my intention [to have Porte penalised]. I was just trying to help a mate,” Clarke said.

“You’d never wish someone to puncture in such an unfortunate moment, especially a GC guy who could lose the race for that. I just did what I thought was right, and try to support a friend.”

 

  • David Chadderton

    The phrase, UCI rule 12.1.040 / 8.2, “Non-regulation assistance to a rider of another team”, has no written definition in Regulation 12, anywhere in Regulation 12, it is, presumably left open for the Commissaires to interpret and apply as they deem suitable. It is a meaningless phrase. It could be applied to providing drafting assistance, passing a bidon across the peloton, deliberately slowing down to delay, chasing down a breakaway while having someone riding in the slipstream. Sorry, but, the phrase is not defined in writing and is meaningless. The Regulation is not consistently applied either. The SNCF railway barrier incident a few weeks ago was death-defying, and Regulation 12 was not applied, after due consideration, of course. Meaningless. I am certain that lawyers, QC’s and judges, would love to have a case with it in court, not that such a legal action would ever take place, as what happens on the playing field, stays on the playing field.

  • Andrea Willbe

    he picks and chooses when rules should apply 100% Agreed. Also, UCI/Cookston pick and choose when a drug test is positive. The conduct is corruption and should be banned. Unfit and unqualified to impose rules or ban anything. YOUROUTTATHERE COOKSTON!!

  • Slapparoo

    The regulation is ambiguous its states:
    “Non-regulation assistance to a rider of another team”

    Richie Porte at no time provided assistance to a rider of another team.

  • john Paul watts

    Pictures of the year, perfect sportsmen. sod the rule and just take pride in them!!

  • Michael

    so this is a different type of help to that given when one team sends riders to pull at the front at the request of another team? There is much greater advantage to be had from that ‘help’ than a borrowed wheel.

  • blemcooper

    There’s that word “consistently” again. It’s clear from the discussion this incident has spawned that many people want not consistent application of rules, but subjective application based on “common sense” or “sportsmanship” or whatever, which will result in anything but consistency.

    That’s not to say that what the UCI has done is consistent–it clearly hasn’t been. But let’s not pretend that consistency is what people want.

    Nobody wants the entire peloton disqualified because everybody removes their helmet at some point during rainy races. That literally would destroy the race.

    Penalizing Richie Porte two minutes harms the competition that we all wanted to see, but it does not destroy the race (other than for some hyperbolic fans).

    Sadly, this is a case of where because everybody does it (removing their helmet), it is ignored, while because cross-team wheel swapping is rare (twice in this race that we know about), it is not ignored, at least when well publicized in the Porte/Clarke case (but not well known in the Meersman/Sky case, though a team offering a wheel might actually be different in the race regulations than a rider offering a wheel).

  • blemcooper

    One of the things this rule does is help protect professional trade teams from riders auditioning for their next contract with another team or helping their future team against the interests of their current team or other teams luring riders from their current teams with undue assistance.

  • Muse-ette

    As stated the rule is there to prevent unfair collaboration between teams or, as in this case, mates. Porte definitely gained an advantage by taking the wheel. He said himself he was only thinking of getting a fast wheel change. In other words faster than if he’d had to wait for a teammate, neutral service or his team car. Had he not been penalised he would have effectively gained time on his rivals, none of whom Clarke, again by his own admission, would have stopped for. Imagine the same thing happening on the final climb of a close race?

  • blemcooper

    The gesture of friendship may have put Orica-GreenEdge at a disadvantage for the team classification relative to Team Sky and others. It is not Clarke’s place to do that for his friend/countryman, while it is his place to do that for his teammates if needed.

    Also, if the team car or neutral service were not around, it is up to Sky’s support riders to offer up their wheel. By taking a wheel from Clarke, Sky then had one more rider to pace Porte to the finish line (rather than having that one Sky rider standing around waiting for service). How much is that one additional rider worth to Porte’s GC standing? Obviously worth enough for them to have that many there in the first place.

  • James Rider

    “The rule is there, it’s clear.”
    Lots of rules are there and are clear, for example, not going under a closed level crossing. Perhaps Cookson could ensure that every rule is consistently applied, rather than picking and choosing to apply pathetic rules like this one. The UCI couldn’t run a school sports day.

  • Richard Durishin

    In any non-lethal, non-legal situation one must balance the PR value vs. rules enforcement or actually considering the value of the rules (especially given their demonstrable, selective enforcement history) In this case, the UCI – as ever – has failed.

  • John Westwell

    I expect it’s to stop overt collaboration between teams. We all know that there are alliances formed during races, but presumably this is deemed to cross a line. Not having seen the coverage, I still don’t know why he couldn’t get a front wheel from a neutral service vehicle, even if his team car wasn’t close by. It’s not as if there would be any compatibility problems like there are with rear wheels.

  • bikefan

    Cookson has stated above that “the rule is there for good reason”. Does anyone know what this reason is? I can’t see much of a difference between Porte using a wheel off a neutral service car and Clarke offering him his wheel. It’s not as if Porte pushed Clarke off his bike and stole his wheel?!