Vuelta a Espana

Riders send formal protest letter over time splits at Vuelta a España

Tension continues to broil over time splits that put Primož Roglič into leader's jersey at Vuelta a España.

Tempers continue to boil at the Vuelta a España following the application on time splits at the finish line in Friday’s stage.

Riders followed up a start-line protest Saturday with an official protest letter that riders in the peloton sent to UCI and race officials Sunday morning before the start of the decisive climbing stage ending atop the Angliru summit.

Their beef? That the UCI race jury applied time splits in Friday’s stage to Suances that cost Richard Carapaz and Ineos Grenadiers the race leader’s red jersey without letting anyone know until after the stage.

“The riders and teams spend months researching stages extensively and a lot of work goes into team strategy on a daily basis to put lead riders or possible stage contenders into the best position possible,” the letter reads. “While we have no issue with the rule being implemented, we object to the fact that the major stakeholders— RIDERS AND TEAMS— were not informed of this critical change by the UCI Jury. We were told that it is the right of the UCI to change the rule as they see fit. If teams and riders can spend time and resources analyzing the finish of each stage, then we expect the same from the UCI. This entire situation could have been avoided with some simple research and communication.”

The frustration comes on the heels of Friday’s decision by the UCI race jury to alter the classification of the 10th stage to Suances and apply finish-line time differences after the stage had finished.

Riders and teams raced the sharp uphill finale on the assumption that it was already classified as a “sprint” finish by race organizers, meaning that the group would receive the same finishing time unless large, three-second gaps opened up.

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) won the day with a sharp acceleration in the final 500m that splintered the trailing GC group. Initially, overnight leader Carapaz was awarded the same finishing time as Roglič, and kept the jersey with a three-second lead after Roglič’s 10-second winner’s bonus was added on.

After consultation, however, the UCI jury reviewed the video, and decided that enough space had opened up between Roglič and the others that time gaps would be awarded as if the stage was classified as a mountaintop finale, meaning that time gaps could be taken at one-second splits.

That ruling had immediate implications on a very tight GC picture at the Vuelta.

Under the altered criteria, the race jury ruled that Carapaz, who crossed the line 14th among a string of riders, finished three seconds adrift of the Slovenian. That meant he and Roglič were tied on real time, but the leader’s jersey would pass from Ineos Grenadiers to Jumbo-Visma. EF Pro Cycling’s Hugh Carthy also lost 10 seconds in the adjusted standings, prompting the team to file an official protest Friday.

“The protest towards this situation includes not only the team that lost the jersey due to this ruling, but the team that gained the jersey,” the riders’ letter stated. “It is supported by the entire peloton of La Vuelta 2020. We are all here to compete at the highest level and strive for victory, but the rules need to be applied in a just and swift manner to allow for a fair race outcome.”

Riders and teams insist they were not told of the change until after the stage had finished. The UCI later issued a clarification, citing a rule that states the race jury president can change the classification of a stage finish based on events at the race. The race jury stated that enough gaps had opened on the steep finish to warrant them awarding time splits.

On Saturday, Chris Froome helped orchestrate an impromptu protest at the start line before the stage finish to Farrapona, and held up the start of the stage for a few minutes as riders expressed their frustration. The UCI did not backtrack, and Friday’s time splits remained.

Riders organized overnight Saturday to write a formal protest letter, which was signed off by everyone racing at the Vuelta.

This letter marks an ever-stronger voice among the WorldTour riders. Earlier this month, riders organized a protest before the start of a cold and rainy Giro stage, and forced organizers to trim the stage by 100km.

Here is the full text of the protest letter:

La Vuelta España 2020 1 November

A statement from the riders competing in the race: Two days ago during stage 10, the UCI Jury made changes to the time gap rules without consulting or informing teams or riders. At the beginning of stage 10, all riders and teams were informed and understood the 3” rule would be applicable in the stage. This means any gaps in the peloton at the finish line of 3” or less would be counted as the bunch time. However, unbeknownst to teams or riders, the UCI Jury made a critical change to this rule and called the stage a hill top finish. Therefore, any gaps between riders would count in the overall general classification and this ruling changed the outcome of the race leader.

The riders and teams spend months researching stages extensively and a lot of work goes into team strategy on a daily basis to put lead riders or possible stage contenders into the best position possible. While we have no issue with the rule being implemented, we object to the fact that the major stakeholders— RIDERS AND TEAMS— were not informed of this critical change by the UCI Jury. We were told that it is the right of the UCI to change the rule as they see fit. If teams and riders can spend time and resources analyzing the finish of each stage, then we expect the same from the UCI. This entire situation could have been avoided with some simple research and communication.

The protest towards this situation includes not only the team that lost the jersey due to this ruling, but the team that gained the jersey. It is supported by the entire peloton of La Vuelta 2020. We are all here to compete at the highest level and strive for victory, but the rules need to be applied in a just and swift manner to allow for a fair race outcome.

The riders would like to sincerely express that this protest is not in any way directed at the race organization, nor does the responsibility rest with them. We are grateful for the measures they have put in place for our safety in all stages and it has been unanimously agreed upon within the peloton that La Vuelta 2020 has been one of the safest and well-organized races during the current pandemic. We applaud the measures they have put in place to make the race as safe as possible.

We feel it is important to note that this statement is written by the riders. We have come together and all agree on this statement and our protest.

The riders in La Vuelta 2020