José Joaquin Rojas was caught on camera three times giving his teammates Andrey Amador and Nelson Oliveira a push back into line and the Spanish outfit crossed the line with a time two seconds better than that of BMC’s.
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Rojas was docked three minutes, leading to Alejandro Valverde being promoted into the lead, but this morning the whole team had a minute added onto their time, and Ben Hermans of BMC was announced as the new race leader.
Tejay van Garderen, who is on the same time as Hermans, said that the UCI‘s decision was the right one in light of the rule infringement: “We followed the rules and rules are there for a reason. They need to be respected,” he told Cycling Weekly.
“If something happened just the one time, you can say it was to avoid a crash, but he was caught three times and that’s not [allowed] in the rules. Who knows what he was doing off camera.
The American explained how the push can be of huge benefit to a rider. “Trying to accelerate back into line is a bigger effort than the effort you have just made on the front. Even just a little push can be the difference between losing a guy and getting dropped, or getting back into line and doing another turn.
“In this day and age, when rules of cycling are getting stricter, the need to be strictly enforced.”
Jackson Stewart, BMC’s sports director at the race, said that there were numerous discussions last night with the UCI and the commissaires. The UCI said pointed to a rule in French that said only the rider should receive a punishment, but the English version made it clear that the entire team should be deducted a minute.
“They imposed the penalty three times, on the rider and the two pushed, but my argument was that you saw three penalties but didn’t impose the correct penalty. There was the argument to do the correct thing,” Stewart said
“Nobody can say what it [the push] did, but if you rode a bike and did a full-gas 15 second pull, and you’re going back at 5 or 10km/h slower, that extra two, three or four km/h can save you who knows how many watts to sprint back onto the wheel. In that respect, it is a saving [of watts]. That’s what the rule is for.
“For us, it wasn’t too much about the time, it was because we felt we would have won the stage. We felt we did it correctly and did the work. Everyone can be happy now.
“They won’t be happy but if we did the same thing we couldn’t be happy if we were leading.They [commissaires] made a mistranslation. Everyone makes mistakes but they corrected it. It’s fine now.