José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) has been stripped of the lead of the Volta a Catalunya after video footage showed him pushing team-mates during stage two’s team time trial.
The UCI commissaires handed Rojas a three-minute penalty following a complaint from the BMC Racing team that the Movistar veteran had given a teammate a series of pushes during his team’s two-second victory over the American outfit in Banyoles.
The time penalty meant that Rojas had to cede the race leader’s green-and-white jersey to team-mate Alejandro Valverde.
Movistar were receiving the plaudits and Rojas his leader’s jersey when BMC team directors Yvon Ledandois and Jackson Stewart collared UCI officials backstage.
As Ledanois explained their complaint, Stewart backed it up by showing footage on a mobile phone to highlight the infractions.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly immediately after this discussion, Stewart said Movistar riders had clearly received two pushes in the final five kilometres of the stage.
“A few of the teams aren’t too happy having seen this. Every team can do this, but most of us don’t do it. Quite simply, you’re not supposed to do it,” said Stewart.
“We were disappointed because it was two solid pushes in the last 5km and we lost by two seconds. Our assumption is that we lost the race because of this,” he added.
Rojas wasn’t the only rider to receive a penalty, with the two riders he pushed, Andrey Amador and Nelson Oliveira, also being docked two minutes and one minute respectively.
The UCI appear to have adopted a firmer line on rule infractions, most notably when Romain Bardet was ejected from Paris-Nice two weeks ago after receiving lengthy and high-speed mechanical support from his team car after crashing.
“Yes, they’ve been really strict with other penalties,” the BMC team director agreed. ‘I think every team has been really aware of that, and we’ve certainly been more alert.”
Stewart admitted that pushes can happen inadvertently when riders get too close to each other or want to ease a teammate ahead of them, but stressed Rojas’s infraction amounted to more than this.
“Most of the time when you see something like this happen it’s to make the rider go faster,” he concluded.
According to UCI rules, the punishment for pushing a team-mate in a team time trial is for every rider on the team to receive a one minute penalty and a 200CHF fine, and it is unclear why the commissaires chose to hand out a different punishment in Catalunya.