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Tour of Utah: Mexican champ Prado eliminated in controversial decision

After he was time cut on Wednesday, Mexican champ Ignacio Prado protested the decision and lost.

In a decision that left Mexico’s Canel’s-Specialized team begging for answers, race officials at the Tour of Utah eliminated Mexican national road champion Ignacio Prado on Wednesday’s stage to Powder Mountain.

Prado, 25, missed the time cut by 50 seconds. But Prado and Canels told officials that they were confused about stage winner Ben Hermans’s finishing time, which led Prado to pedal slower to the finish.

Prado was paced up the final climb by teammate Lalo Corte, only to be told he was out of the race at the top. Language barriers left Prado wondering around the podium trying to understand what had just happened.

“I was calculating the time but I didn’t know the exact time of the winner, I thought it was more,” Prado told VeloNews, speaking in Spanish. “I did everything I could for that time, it’s seconds only.”

Prado had spent much of the race up to that point attacking into breakaways, and by Wednesday he held a lead in both the King of the Mountains and Points classification. Had he maintained his lead, Prado would have become the first Mexican rider to take those jerseys at the Tour of Utah.

Canel’s-Specialized management filed a protest late Wednesday with the race jury. The team was informed Thursday morning that the protest had been denied and the decision would stand.

“It’s just a race, nothing more,” said  Juan Jose Monsivais, director sportif of Canel’s. “We have to accept the decision of the commissaires and so nothing happens and we move forward. Nacho knew the time limit but it’s very difficult in this type of race with this type of climb.”

Sitting back in the team van after meeting with the UCI commissaires race officials, Prado and his teammates were stunned, trying to accept the outcome.

“I made a great effort to travel from Lima, and arrive ready to race,” Prado said. “During a stage at the Vuelta a San Juan, they had given us a 14% time limit, but in the end made the decision to change it to 16%. Today, missing only by seconds? It can’t be.”

The decision came a day after the race jury denied a protest from the Elevate-KHS team, which contested the race jury’s decision on Tuesday to penalize then leader James Piccoli 20 seconds for drafting off of a team car.

That incident occurred during the waning moments of Tuesday’s stage 1. Piccoli suffered a puncture inside 10km to go and required a bike change. His Elevate-KHS teammates paced Piccoli back into the main field, and the Canadian rejoined the bunch just as the field crossed the line.

Hours later the team learned Piccoli was penalized by the commissaires for pacing off of the team car, adding 20 seconds to his time and a fine. Despite an official protest filed by the team, the decision stood.

Prado had landed in Salt Lake City several hours after midnight, direct from Peru, racing the opening prologue only hours later. The 25-year-old had scored impressive results in the Pan American Games, scoring two medals. He finished second behind Deceuninck – Quick Step’s Maximiliano Richeze in the road race Saturday, top ten in the time trial, and a silver in the omnium on the track behind American Daniel Holloway.

The race participation for Prado’s team, Canel’s Specialized from Mexico, was a result of more than a year of conversations and meetings with the race organization to earn the prestigious invitation. The race had been a key objective after seeing compatriot Luis Villalobos win the Best Young Rider classification last year, and earn a WorldTour contract soon after for his efforts.

Prado said he believed the decision was inconsistent with others made by UCI race juries—in May the race jury at the Amgen Tour of California allowed Tejay van Garderen to keep his lead after he crashed and failed to catch the peloton on the third stage.

“All I can do now is continue learning and keep making the best out of these things,” Prado said. “We will have new opportunities and will continue looking for better performances.”