While David Gaudu rode to an impressive victory that reminded us of his talents on stage 11 of the Vuelta a España, the result got lost in the story of the day, which was the Chris Froome-led protest at the start line.
The Ineos rider positioned himself at the front of the rollout between race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and team-mate Richard Carapaz, shouting after Enric Mas Movistar) to stop after the start was announced, waving his hands and indicating that the peloton were to stay put.
The bunch did remain motionless in their saddles, at which point Vuelta race director Javier Guillén got out of his car to chat with Froome, and ITV’s cameras were on hand to eavesdrop on what Froome was saying.
“I’m sorry for the race organisation, but the riders have made a decision,” Froome began as Guillén walked over.
The protest was held due to the failure to implement the three-second rule on stage 10, which meant Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) took the red jersey off Froome’s team-mate Richard Carapaz.
The stage had been designated as a flat stage, but the uphill kick to the line generated time gaps, and the UCI commissaires decided after the stage to not use the three-second rule, meaning Carapaz lost three seconds to Roglič, while EF Pro Cycling’s Hugh Carthy lost 10.
The three-second rule was introduced a few years ago to try and make flat sprint stages safer, with gaps of three-seconds at the finish line needed in order to implement time gaps between riders, so that GC riders wouldn’t also fight for the line alongside sprint trains.
“We change the jersey now, for yesterday?” Froome asked Guillén. “Because it changed the race. If we start and Jumbo have the jersey, they need to control. If we start and we have the jersey, we need to control. So it changes the whole race.”
Guillén must have suggested for the matter to be discussed after the day’s stage, but Froome was adamant.
“We can’t talk about this later, something needs to be decided now.”
Froome then had a discussion with Jumbo-Visma’s Paul Martens while Enric Mas (Movistar) and Spanish national road race champion Luis Léon Sánchez (Astana) listened in. After a few more minutes, Spanish riders began to tire of the protest and the peloton started to ride off for the start of stage 11.
“Great to see the peloton sticking together at the Vuelta. Well, apart from the usual suspects,” Thomas said. “My point is, pro cycling is nothing without the riders. Yet all the big decisions are made by suits and we are the last to know. The main reason we have no say is because we don’t ever stick together as a peloton.”