By Nigel Wynn
Gianni Meersman was handed a time penalty and fine for drafting a team car and accepting a hand-sling from a team-mate during stage two of Paris-Nice on Monday.
The Belgian crashed in the final 10 kilometres of the stage, losing contact with the peloton. He could then be clearly seen riding closely behind his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team car and later taking a hand-sling from team-mate Niki Terpstra in his efforts to chase down the bunch.
Meersman announced on Tuesday morning before stage three that he was withdrawing from the race citing injuries sustained as a result of the crash - although the time penalty and fine must also have stung.
Race commissaires ruled that Meersman's tactics were against the rules and he was given a one minute and 10 second time penalty: 40 seconds for drafting and 30 seconds for the hand-sling. The penalty saw Meersman drop to 102nd position in the general classification, one minute and 31 seconds adrift of race leader Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ).
Meersman, Terpstra and Omega Pharma directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters, who was driving the car behind which Meersman drafted, were also all fined for their part in the incident.
The race had started well for Meersman, placing third on stage one and picking up points and bonus seconds in an intermediate sprint to sit in second place overall going into stage two, where he wore the green points classification jersey as Bouhanni was in yellow.
Images from the second day of Paris-Nice 2014, won by Moreno Hofland
Gianni Meersman receives time penalty for drafting team car on stage two of Paris-Nice
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