'It denigrates racing': EF boss criticises Amstel Gold Race organisers for Pogačar drafting controversy

EF Education-EasyPost's Jonathan Vaughters frustrated at apparent car drafting advantage given to men's race winner Tadej Pogačar

Tadej Pogačar at the Amstel Gold Race
(Image credit: Eurosport/GCN+)

Drafting assistance from vehicles in racing "denigrates" the experience, EF Education-EasyPost team boss Jonathan Vaughters has said, after an incident at the Amstel Gold Race involving Tadej Pogačar on Sunday.

The UAE Team Emirates rider, who won the race, was shown riding behind a race organisation car with 10km to go on his way to victory on Sunday. Behind, EF's Ben Healy was trailing by 23 seconds, a gap that grew to 38 seconds by the finish.

Writing on Twitter, Vaughters wrote: "The issue is, we see vehicles changing the race results all the time. Sometimes in our favor, sometimes not. It just gets tiresome. Pog prob would have won in sprint; NOT the point. It just denigrates the racing."

Pogačar, the overwhelming favourite for the race, dropped the other riders in his select group, Healy and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), with 29km to go, soloing to the finish.

As Vaughters said, the likelihood is that Pogačar would have won the race anyway, given the Slovenian's form. However, the drafting moment undoubtedly influenced the race, if not altering the result.

Vaughters had earlier tweeted: "Quality work by #AGR23 [Amstel Gold Race] race organizers… motorpaced (Derny) racing on the track is always the most exciting. So, guess they are bringing it to the road now."

The American clarified his view on riders drafting behind cars in races, something that is seen after accident or mechanical incident often.

"I think legalized leniency on drafting to return from puncture, crash, mishap, etc is totally fine," he said. "Should be explained a bit better and more clearly to public, but for me it’s fine. However, drafting at the front end of the peloton/breakaway? NO"

The Amstel Gold Race's director, Leo van Vliet, who was in the car which offered Pogačar an aerodynamic advantage, defended his actions on the In Het Wiel podcast on Sunday.

“I’ve heard the criticism,” Van Vliet said. “We drove behind Pogačar, and then at some point Healy got closer, so we had to pass.

“I know the course, it only gets narrower. When we drove past [Pogačar], we still had to be careful because the road was not very wide. If someone takes a picture and a car is driving in front of him … What am I supposed to do with that?”

Asked if he understood why people were angry at the drafting advantage, and whether he accepted that the aerodynamic benefits were big, he demurred. 

“I raced myself and I can’t imagine it,” he said. “And what good is it for me to do so? Oh well, let them talk, I can’t do anything about it.”

Pogačar, for his part, was honest in his response post-race.

“I didn’t like it. But this happens all the time when they are at the front of the race. They pass and they sink back again. That’s how it always goes,” he told Wielerflits.

“I can’t do much about it. I can only ride as fast as possible. The car was too close, but I don’t think the moment lasted too long.”

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.