The Tour of California has been hit by a controversy after Tejay van Garderen was allowed to hold onto the race lead, despite losing time on stage four.
EF Education rider Van Garderen was hit by a mechanical inside the final 10km and was forced to chase down the peloton but did not make it back into the bunch.
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The peloton were then affected by a crash just outside the 3km mark, causing more time splits.
At the finish, Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Kasper Asgreen was the race leader-in-waiting after Van Garderen finished 54 seconds back and Gianni Moscon (Team Ineos) also slipped off the podium after being caught in the crash.
Quick-Step’s Fabio Jakobsen won the sprint at the line, taking the team’s third consecutive stage win in California.
Then an hour after after stage finish, race officials announced that all riders affected by the collision and Van Garderen would be given the same time as the front finishers.
The commissaires panel said: “The mass crash near the finish of stage four was just outside the 3km to go point.
“The commissaires have decided to treat the crash such that all riders affected by the incident and the road blockage will receive field time.”
That decision has caused a stir, as many have pointed out the crash happened outside the 3km safety zone and that Van Garderen had not rejoined the bunch by the finish.
Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere said on Twitter: “This is a very dangerous precedent and I’m absolute against this decision.”
He added: “Regulations are there to be respected. Now the VAR commissaires will also decide who wins the race.
“Totally unfair against the boys who were fighting for the win.”
The official rules say that a rider or riders involved in a crash or who suffer a puncture or mechanical incident inside the last 3km will be given the same finishing time as the group they were with at the time of the problem.
Rules also state that the president of the commissaires’ panel can also decide to cancel or let the results stand if a race is temporarily neutralised or stopped, taking into account the gaps recorded at the moment of the incident.
But the UCI rules are not clear about whether the panel can neutralise the time gaps because of a crash outside the 3km mark, or whether they can give a rider the same time as the bunch if he had not rejoined.
Van Garderen leads the race by six seconds over Moscon, with Asgreen one second further back.