Julian Alaphilippe avoided being penalised by Tour de France race commissaires after being pushed up the Galibier by a Deceuninck – Quick-Step staff member.
On stage 18, television cameras showed Alaphilippe receiving a push from one of his soigneurs as he began to falter near the Alpine summit and drop from the group containing his rivals for the yellow jersey.
He eventually caught back up to the GC group following a mesmerising descent, and at the finish line in Valloire escaped losing valuable seconds as the Frenchman hadn’t broken any UCI rules that would result in a time penalty.
Alaphilippe could have faced a monetary fine, although this honour was instead given to one of his sports directors, Tom Steels, who administered the push and was subsequently ordered to pay 500 Swiss Francs (£404).
This penalty was handed out under the UCI’s Article 2.12.007/8.1, which punishes those who fail to “respect instructions, improper, dangers or violent behaviour, damage to the environment or the image of the sport”.
On stage 16, however, Alaphilippe was punished for missing the post-race press conference. He was fined 1000 Francs (£808), had his prize money for the day taken away (€300 for finishing 20th on the stage €500 for being in yellow) as well as having his 25 UCI points won on the stage withdrawn.
Many made the comparison to Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) being fined for receiving a push at this year’s Giro d’Italia. However, the Slovenian received a much longer push from a fan and made no attempt to stop him.
Dutch journalist Thijs Zonneveld said after the stage: “Alaphilippe is pushed just below the top of the Galibier by a soigneur from his own team. If Roglič gets punishment in the Giro for nudges from fans, then punishment time must follow.”
Deceuninck – Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere hit back in the strongest possible terms, saying: “Totally not true loser.”
Heading into the penultimate day in the mountains on stage 19, Alaphilippe holds a 1-30 lead over Egan Bernal (Ineos), who leap-frogged team-mate Geraint Thomas on stage 18, with the defending champion sitting third and 1-35 down on the Frenchman.