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Cookson: ‘The UCI jury had no option’ with Sky’s Porte

VICENZA, Italy (VN) — Richie Porte’s position in the Giro d’Italia is the correct one — 12th overall at three minutes and nine seconds — said UCI president Brian Cookson. Team Sky’s Australian lost two of those minutes due to a penalty for changing his wheel with a rival team, a sanction the UCI approved.

Cookson explained that “the jury had no option” but to penalize Porte for taking assistance and a wheel from fellow Australian Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge).

“With the practically of bike racing, you can have a race spread over many kilometers. The jury doesn’t see every transgression. If something happens in the middle of the bunch, they don’t see it. Sometimes things slip by,” Cookson told VeloNews.

“There are times when things matter and times when [they] don’t really matter, and that’s part of the jury’s job. In this case, when a rider in the top-three overall has an incident like that in the last few kilometers of the race — that can’t be ignored.”

Immediately after stage 10 Tuesday, photographs zipped through cyberspace showing Clarke putting his wheel in Porte’s bicycle at seven kilometers from the Forlì finish. Porte put the photo on Twitter himself.

A jury member saw the incident firsthand and with the other three jury members, applied rule 12.1.040 / 8.2, “Non regulation assistance to a rider of another team.” Besides giving both Porte and Clarke a two-minute penalty in the classification, the jury fined them 200 Swiss Francs ($214 USD).

Instead of both Porte and Fabio Aru (Astana), race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) now only had Aru on his tail. He leads the race by 17 seconds on Aru as of Thursday’s stage to Vicenza.

The jury decision blew Porte out of the classification. It was as if he suffered a bad day in a high-mountain stage, but then, the 2015 Giro d’Italia has yet to reach the famous passes.

Cookson said that one could say that the penalty was “a bit on the hard side,” but that Sky and all the 22 teams in the Giro should know the rules.

“There are rules where there are grounds for interpretation. There are rules that are there for a good reason and maybe not used very often; it doesn’t mean they are bad rules. They are there for a reason,” Cookson added.

“I’ve seen the discussion on the internet. While it was a sporting gesture, it could be seen as an unfair gesture: The teams are nine riders, not 10. Would an Australian give his wheel to Fabio Aru or Contador? That’s why there are those kinds of rules, a team is a team.”

Some followers argue that the jury penalized one rider, but let many ride free. A group of riders crossed a closed train barrier in Paris-Roubaix in April without any sanction. Fans see riders pace behind cars daily to rejoin the peloton after a mechanical or stopping to urinate. Wednesday, Contador rode without his helmet while changing his cap, which rule 12.1.040 / 3.3 says should draw a disqualification.

“There are occasions when riders and teams push the rules, push the patience of the commissaires to the absolute limit, and sometimes they go over that limit and get fines,” added Cookson.

“We saw in Ireland on Monday that they disqualified the race leader for holding on to a car, so the commissaires do act appropriately and make appropriate decisions.

“Every sport has to have a little bit of flexibility in applying the rules. When you are a commissaires, you have to take those decisions in the context of what is happening. When it happens like this, with a classification rider and the race full on, the commissaries have no option but to be firm.”