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Tour de France

Active Pass roundtable: Should the Tour de France race jury have penalized Julian Alaphilippe?

Our sixth Active Pass roundtable focuses on the Tour de France race jury's controversial decision on Wednesday to penalize Julian Alaphilippe for taking an illegal feed.

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The 2020 Tour de France has begun, which means there are plenty of pressing questions to hash out every day, and plenty of hot takes to debate. Our veteran reporters, Andrew Hood and James Startt, are fielding your biggest inquiries each day in this Active Pass roundtable column.

Today, everyone wants to know about the Tour de France race jury’s controversial decision during Wednesday’s stage 5 to penalize Julian Alaphilippe for taking an illegal feed — a decision that bumped him out of yellow.

To submit a question of your own, scroll to the bottom of the page and type it in via the online form. We want to hear from you, so please send along any inquiry you’d like to be answered.

OK, let’s get to your questions!

Could Wout van Aert ever be a GC contender? Based on stage 4 it looks like he can climb.

Wout van Aert can win sprints, time trials, and hard classics. He can also climb. Oh, did you now he was a three-time cyclocross world champion too? Photo: Marco Bertorello-Pool/Getty Images

Andrew Hood @eurohoody: He’ll never be fighting for the GC in a grand tour, but he certainly could be in the mix in shorter stage races like Tour de Suisse or other week-long races. The climbing in a grand tour would require him to lose a lot of weight, and thus lose his pure power. Maybe if they come up with a route with many time trials, Wout could just try to hang on, but that’s unlikely. Personaly, it’s better to see him “big” and fighting across all terrain.

James Startt: Well could ask the same question about Mathieu van der Poel. I think in the old-time Tours it would certainly have possible. Back in the day, there were always lengthy time trials and classic climb like Alpe d’Huez that power-based guys could get over. But today with the accent on climbing, and the Tour looking for more and more steep climbs I think that is a long stretch. Climbing up Orcières-Merlette compared to some of the pitches found in the Pyrénées for example. And also when climbs hit the 2,000-meter mark the pure climbers can take it to another level. So I would say no.

Fred Dreier @freddreier: What can’t Wout van Aert do? If you told me that his next challenge was to become a grand tour GC rider, or to try and win the Meg Avalanche l’Alpe d’Huez, I would believe you. With all of that said, I think we all know Wout van Aert’s destiny, and that is to become Flander’s latest cobblestone crusher to win the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. I think it would mean more to Wout and the entire Flemish people for him to become the second coming of Tom Boonen.

Was the Tour de France right to penalize Julian Alaphilippe on stage 5?

Andy: The rules are the rules, and that rules in particular is one of the most standardized in the peloton. Everyone knows that one. It’s on the books, in theory, to take out the risk of crashes when the argy-bargy begins in the final 20km. And it was blatantly captured on French TV, so it was hard for the UCI jury to ignore. There area few contrarian theories on why the jury imposed the sanction, but the reality is that Alaphilippe took an illegal bottle, and that’s it.

James: Them’s the rules. His team knows that, but for some reason, they along with several other teams, chose that spot. One this is sure, it is a shame for the race and the fans. Even Adam Yates has no pleasure in taking over yellow like that.

Fred: In the hour after the decision, I felt like it was totally wrong and an injustice to the race. This is already a Tour de France operating under the cloud of COVID-19, so why kick the French hero out of the race? The more I have thought about it and read about it, it does seem like this is a rule that everybody knew about. And, as we’ve learned in cycling, if rule-breaking takes place on TV, then the jury really has to enforce it — or else they will be blamed for French favoritism and everyone will be upset. So, while it was unpopular, they made the right call in enforcing the rule.

Wait — please explain the 20km no feed rule. Sounds like the UCI doesn’t always enforce this.

You can feed along the course — just not inside 20km to go. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Andy: It’s a rather arbitrary, but it’s been there for a long time. Sometimes the race jury will call out on the radio to change the distance on the feed zone on very hot days to make it closer to the finish, but there was no call Wednesday. As harsh as it is, someone on the team messed up. Two other riders were also penalized.

James: Well I seem to remember Miguel Indurain getting hit with an illegal feed violation the day he got dropped in the Alps on the 1996 Tour (I forget the stage but Luc Leblanc won). The rule has been there for a long time in my opinion, but in some cases, say on days of extreme heat, the jury may allow for feeds outside official zones. But it is not a useless rule. Things get crazy enough in the final 20km, and there are always crashes in the feed zone, so the last thing you need is to add to the confusion. The rule itself is understandable even if the Alaphilippe grab posed no threat to anyone.

Fred: You can’t feed with 20km to go, because the peloton gets crazy and aggressive in that zone, so adding roadside feeds during that period is asking for disaster. Whether or not the rule is always enforced with teeth, it’s the rule of the road, and everybody knows it. If you break it, you’re taking a gamble.

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