Vuelta a Espana

Chris Froome organizes rider protest over disagreement on time gaps at Vuelta a España

Riders and teams were unsure if Friday's sharp finish would be classified as a sprinter stage or as a hilltop finale.

Chris Froome led a brief but intense rider protest Saturday before the start at the 10th stage at the Vuelta a España.

Frustrated over time splits awarded the previous stage at the finish line in Suances that cost his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Richard Carapaz the race leader’s jersey, the four-time Tour de France winner rallied the peloton to delay the start of the stage in order to make a point.

There was confusion whether or not the UCI’s “three-second” rule should have been applied to the Suances finish line, which ended with a sharp ramp at the end of the stage that provoked gaps among the leaders as Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).

Initially, the UCI jury awarded all the front riders the same time, meaning Carapaz would have defended the red leader’s jersey. Later, the jury decided there was enough space between the finishing riders to count, and it was decided Roglič crossed the line three seconds ahead of Carapaz, thus giving him the jersey Friday.

There was some confusion among riders and teams on whether or not the stage would be considered a “sprinter stage,” meaning that the entire pack would be awarded the same time unless there were relatively big gaps — for example, three seconds or more — between the finishing riders. Before the Vuelta started, the stage was identified as a sprinter stage, meaning that everyone in the bunch thought that relatively small gaps would not be taken at the line.

Instead, the UCI race jury decided Friday that the finish was so steep and that the gaps were significant enough to revoke the sprinter stage status, and apply time gaps as if it were a mountaintop finish.

Froome organized the impromptu protest, but not everyone was aware what was happening. Juanma Garate, sport director at EF Pro Racing, also filed an official protest after Friday’s stage with the UCI jury. EF’s Hugh Carthy lost 10 seconds Friday after a gap opened at the line.

Despite the protest and confusion, the times from Friday stood. Roglič started the stage Saturday tied with Carapaz, and defended the red jersey going into Sunday’s key stage finishing atop the Angliru.

Here’s what the UCI said Saturday:

“Stage 10 of the Vuelta 2020 was initially identified as expected to finish in a bunch sprint by the organisation. Given the actual uphill profile of the final KM and that there was no bunch sprint finish, provision 5 of the applicable protocol – allowing the President of the UCI Commissaires’ Panel to interpret situations as necessary and implement any exceptions – was applied after the race by the UCI Commissaires’ Panel. The time gap calculation was hence maintained at the standard 1 second between riders as per article 1.2.017. Stage and general classification standings are upheld as they stand. As per the protocol, any decisions regarding its application shall be issued by the Commissaires’ Panel in an independent manner.”