João Almeida has avoided a penalty for littering after race judges confused him with a team-mate at the Giro d’Italia.
The Deceuninck - Quick-Step leader was initially handed a fine of 500 Swiss francs (£392) on stage three for littering outside the designated zone, which put him at risk of a one-minute time penalty for a second offence.
But according to Italian cycling website Spaziociclismo, the race commissaires mistook Almeida, number 92, for his team-mate Fausto Masnada, whose race number is 97,
Almeida, who wore the pink jersey for two weeks in last year’s Giro, told Rai TV before the stage of stage four: “They’ve cancelled my penalty.
“I was on the attack all day and I knew that the television cameras were on me, so I was extra careful not to litter. I’ve spoken to the judges and they’ve cancelled my punishment, but it’s my word against theirs.”
On April 1, 2021, the UCI implemented strict new rules around littering in races in a bid to improve the environmental impact of the sport.
The new rules initially stated that a rider would be immediately disqualified from a race for littering outside the designated refuse zones, but the UCI faced an almost immediately backlash after Michael Schär (Ag2r-Citroën) was kicked out of the Tour of Flanders.
In mid-April, the UCI then changed rules on discarding bidons and gel wrappers following the backlash.
Under the new rules, riders throwing bottles in one-day races will be punished through a fine and a deduction of UCI points for the first offence, followed by a disqualification for a second incident.
In stage races, the first offence will result in a fine and a deduction of UCI points for the rider, the second incident will result in a one-minute time penalty, while a third infringement will lead to disqualification.
Almeida, currently fourth overall in the Giro, would have been at risk of a one-minute time penalty for a second infringement if his littering punishment had been upheld, which would have been a blow to his general classification ambitions.
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