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A chaotic finale at the Vuelta a España saw Primož Roglič attack and crash, Mads Pedersen win the stage, and controversy creep in with Eurosport commentator Adam Blythe suggesting that a late mechanical for race leader Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) was ‘a little too convenient.’
Evenepoel’s hand went up looking for service on a late climb on stage 16, soon after Roglič attacked with around 2.8km to go. The Belgian remained calm under pressure, seemingly believing that the ‘3km rule’ would save him even if there were splits at the finish.
The bike change took some time and Evenepoel would indeed be awarded the same time as the main field, losing just eight seconds to Roglič in the fight for the overall standings.
“I had a puncture on my rear wheel and I wasn’t in the best position,” Evenepoel said at the finish when interviewed in the leader’s red jersey.
“I was a little bit scared in the last 4-5km. I wanted to move up on the steep bump but my rear wheel just went off so I felt like I had a flat tire. I am happy that the 3km rule exists, otherwise, I would have lost a lot of time today.”
Blythe, who raced on the road for a number of years, and was a British national champion on the road, stopped shy of accusing Evenepoel of faking the puncture but he said that questions needed to be answered given what he had seen from the television studios and replays.
“It’s just all a little too convenient that right at the bottom of that climb, and we never saw him up towards the front. As you can see, both wheels are pumped up and he’s pedaling fine, so what is the problem with it? He can pedal on the bike. I don’t understand what the problem is. His handlebars are fine, he’s not hit the deck, so I would like to know,” Blythe said.
“I’m sure that there is a reason but when you stop the pictures he’s got them pumped up, he’s able to keep the bike moving. So you have to justify what the reason is for stopping. If it’s mechanical how can you still pedal?”
“I really want to see the bike and see what the problem was when he stopped at the side of the road. He’s not crashed, you can tell, and both wheels look pumped up. If the gears have gone into his spokes then he can’t pedal. Yes it’s a mechanical, but that’s something you can help. I would like to go and see that bike,” Blythe had said before Evenepoel claimed it was a rear wheel flat.”
VeloNews reached out to Evenepoel’s team for a comment. They replied by backing the rider’s initial stance.
“He punctured. That’s the only answer we can say to that. It happened in the last 3km. I know that Adam has to do his job but Remco punctured and that’s it. They have to say what they think they see.”
Following the stage Blythe then took to social media to state that he was not insinuating any cheating on Evenepoel’s part and that on a second look it did indeed look like the Belgian had suffered a late rear wheel flat.
“Hello you lovely lot,” Blythe said on video.
“I just want to clear one thing up. I was commenting today on what we could see, and as I said, it didn’t look flat. I have seen a video from someone else showing the tire was flat. Anyone trying say that I was insulating that Remco was cheating, I am not. I’m just saying what I saw. I was saying what I could see and it didn’t look like a flat tire.”