Have you ever done something, quickly realised you had broken the rules, tried to take it back but it was too late?
This is exactly what happened to Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) at the Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden road race on Sunday, as the Dutchwoman briefly adopted the banned 'puppy paws' position on her way to apparent victory.
Despite only being in the position for about three seconds, Vos was disqualified after lengthy deliberation by the UCI commissaires, meaning the win went to Audrey Cordon-Ragot of Trek-Segafredo instead.
The illegal move came as the winning break at the Swedish WorldTour race had formed with about 13km to go. Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM), Valerie Demey (Liv Racing Xstra), Vos and Cordon-Ragot went clear of the peloton, and then Vos popped her hands over the handlebars.
The rule-breaking was immediately noticed on social media; the position has been banned since last year. In April 2021, the UCI introduced strict punishments for anyone riding in a number of unconventional riding positions on safety grounds, including 'puppy paws'.
Vos accepted the disqualification, even though she barely benefited from the banned position, and it spoiled her celebrations.
In fact, the Dutchwoman, who recently won the green jersey at the Tour de France Femmes, was already giving post-race interviews when the news came through.
“When I was in that ‘puppy paw position’, I quickly realised it was not allowed," Vos said. "I immediately switched to the correct position. Apparently, it was enough for the UCI to disqualify me," said Vos who did not argue the decision and accepted the disqualification.
"We'll have to accept their decision. It is a pity, but it is a rule, and it is strictly enforced. You usually don’t ride in that position. I feel bad about it because I did not benefit from it, but rules are rules."
In the aftermath of the rule changes last year, several high profile riders were disqualified, including Richard Carapaz at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, when he adopted the 'super-tuck'.
Cordon-Ragot, who finished second on Sunday, and was therefore awarded the victory following Vos' disqualification, admitted to having "mixed feeling" about the result. It took minutes after the finish, therefore the Trek rider barely had a chance to properly acknowledge her triumph.
“I’m super happy for the race I did, super proud of the performance of my teammates," the Frenchwoman said. "We showed our strength with an amazing teamwork and my role was to finalize the huge work they did. That, for me, was the most important thing happened today and what I’ll retain from the race.
“On the other side, it’s a strange situation. After the finish line I was happy for my second place, and I am still proud of it. I had no regrets because I was beat by the strongest rider in the peloton at the moment. I was definitely not embarrassed to be second. But then I was told I was the winner and my name will be on the palmares. Chapeau to Marianne, because she was the first who recognized that a rule is rule and accepted the sanction.”
It was an "unexpected" reward for her ride, as she had crossed the line thinking that she was second; considering Vos' career achievements, it is never a bad thing to finish behind her.
“I feel this day, with my good performance and the win, even if unexpected, it’s a good reward for the efforts and sacrifices I did since the beginning of the year. Winning or not, I feel today it’s a day to enjoy. I’m not proud and happy because I won, but because me and my team rode strong,” she said.
“The rest of the history, after the finish line, is already known.”
Rules might be rules, history decided, but it would have been a better look for all if the decision had been made quickly, or during the race itself.
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1