CAMINITO DEL REY, Spain (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was thrown out of the Vuelta a España on Sunday for holding onto his team car while trying to rejoin the favorites after getting caught in a crash during stage 2.
Release of the overall classification had been delayed while the race jury met to decide whether the 2010 Vuelta champion would be assessed a time penalty or thrown out of the race.
The jury announced its decision after seeing video of the incident. Nibali, who also won the 2013 Giro d’Italia and 2014 Tour de France, was sent back to Italy along with the sports director driving the car, Alexandre Shefer.
“We saw the videos, we waited to see them on Europort,” said the race jury president, Bruno Valcic. “We watched the film together with Astana director Stefano Zanini.
“The penalties are really clear, the commissaires had to disqualify Nibali from the race. The sports director driving the car, Alexandre Shefer, is also out of the race, and the Astana team car will only be able to continue with one car in the race for two days.
“It was a really tough decision, but looking at the TV images, it was really clear, we had no other option but to give the penalty to the rider.”
Zanini said he sought a lesser penalty but was rebuffed.
“We asked for leniency, asking for a time sanction but not to disqualify him,” he said. “The judges decided that an action of this type creates a precedent for other riders.”
Nibali and his teammates Paolo Tiralongo, Diego Rosa and Fabio Aru were among the many riders caught up in a large crash during the stage, and it took a while to get fresh bikes to everyone who needed one, Nibali included.
IAM Cycling’s David Tanner was unable to continue following the crash. Nibali remounted and chased through the caravan to finish 31st, 1:28 down on stage winner and new race leader Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge).
That result will be struck following Nibali’s disqualification.
“They can do what they want to do, I don’t have a thing to say to the jury,” Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli told VeloNews before the jury made its decision.
“If they send him home, it will be the race’s loss.”
Martinelli sat shotgun while Shefer drove Astana’s team car. Nibali took hold with 16 kilometers to race in the 158.7km stage. He re-joined the group with 10km remaining, but later lost contact.
“I saw the video, I know what we did!” added Martinelli.
“It happens in the Tour, I’ve seen it a thousand times. Try to find me an honest person in the peloton. Any sports director would have done the same thing to save their leader.”
Race director Javier Guillén saw things otherwise.
“I agree with the decision because I think his attitude is regrettable,” he said in the pressroom. “There is no other possibility.
“This image is bad for cycling, for the sport, and the consequences of this decision are bad for the Vuelta, we have lost a big rider. Any other decision would be hard to understand. The rules have to be followed.”
Astana began the race with three leaders, but must now turn to Aru and Mikel Landa to lead the team with three weeks still to ride in the Vuelta.