There was a new race leader even before Wednesday’s third stage started at the Volta a Catalunya.
Riders woke up to discover that the UCI commissaires changed their overnight ruling following Tuesday’s controversial team time trial, and handed down a one minute time penalty on the entire Movistar team, meaning that BMC Racing’s Ben Hermans started Wednesday’s stage to the La Molina ski area as race leader.
This was the latest twist in what’s been a controversial team time trial Tuesday following a wake of criticism over Movistar’s performance during the 41-kilometer team effort against the clock.
Here’s a quick recap of what happened:
1. Movistar beat BMC Racing by two seconds in the 41.3km TTT, with José Joaquin Rojas leading Movistar across the line to become the new race leader.
2. Moments later, following an outcry from BMC Racing and others that Rojas and his teammates were apparently doing illegal pushes during their rotations, the UCI commissaires handed Rojas a three-minute penalty. That meant Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde became the new race leader, still two seconds ahead of BMC Racing.
3. BMC Racing continued to put pressure on the UCI, and race video revealed Movistar riders were taking what appeared to be pushes during critical moments of the TTT. According to UCI rules, a one-minute penalty could be handed down against the entire team if teammates push each other during a TTT, but commissaires ruled differently. Instead of penalizing the entire team, other riders who were pushed were individually penalized, including Andrey Amador (two minutes) and Nelson Oliveira (one minute). When everyone went to bed last night, Valverde was the race leader.
4. Following further review, the UCI decided Wednesday morning to penalize the entire Movistar team one minute (and eliminating the larger, individual penalties). That put Hermans into the lead, tied with the rest of his BMC Racing teammates. Team Sky, initially third in the TTT, is now second, at 44 seconds back, and Movistar is now third, at 58 seconds.
BMC confirmed the news on its Twitter account Wednesday morning:
On Wednesday morning, Movistar issued a statement, defending its riders:
“After the events that happened following the team time trial of the Volta a Catalunya, with a one-minute penalty being eventually imposed over the eight riders that claimed victory on the stage yesterday, the Movistar Team wants to express its complete disagreement towards the sanction received.
“It’s a penalty due to an infringement which we consider absolutely non-existent. The rider performing the action does not ‘push’ his team-mates, but touches the back of them with his right hand to warn them that they must take his position into the team row, a fact that doesn’t influence the race’s outcome at all.
We deeply regret that a sporting event sees its results distorted by the application of a rule which punishes pushing between team-mates, something which, as shown by the images, was not the case yesterday. We consider this sets a dangerous precedent for the future, since any touch between riders from now on will have to be punished.”