Van Garderen: Nibali’s Vuelta tow ‘a flagrant rule violation’

American Tejay van Garderen says he feels Nibali's actions on Sunday constituted a "flagrant rule violation," but the penalty was extreme.

MÁLAGA, Spain (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali’s tow in the Vuelta a España stage 2 was too much, said some top cyclists at race Monday morning, the day after the team Astana Italian was sent home. American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) called it “A flagrant rule violation.”

“It was kind of shocking. It seems like the jury is taking a tough stance, which they should, but I’m glad I’m not the one to make those calls,” van Garderen told VeloNews.

“When I looked at the video, it wasn’t just a sticky bottle, it seemed like they pretty much towed him up to the group. That’s certainly against the rules. I would’ve slapped him with a big time penalty and a fine, but to kick him out of the race was a bit extreme. The rules are rules. It was definitely a pretty flagrant rule violation.”

The Vuelta rolled out of Mijas on the Costa del Sol in Spain’s south today without Nibali. Nibali was one of several caught up in the crash 30 kilometers from the finish of stage two Sunday.

During his chase back to the favorites’ group, which included van Garderen and Chris Froome (Sky), the Astana team car passed his group and he held on to the driver’s side door and took a tow. They sped clear of the chase group for nine seconds before the television coverage switched to another angle.

Those images were enough to convince the jury, which booted the 2010 winner — and winner of the 2013 Giro d’Italia and 2014 Tour de France — a few hours after the stage.

“A sticky bottle is accepted for a few meters, but changing groups with the car, that’s a bit too much,” Tour de France stage-winner Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) said.

“This wasn’t a sticky bottle, this was holding on to the car,” van Garderen added. “When you take a bottle, you can hold on for a second to catch your breath to put the bottle in your back pocket or in your bike cage, but to have the car take you from your group to another, that’s wrong.”

Chris Froome butted heads with Nibali at least twice on his way to winning the Tour de France last month, once when he went to Nibali’s Astana bus after Nibali blamed him for a crash and another time after he saw Nibali attack while he suffered a mechanical.

Usually talkative, he was tight-lipped on Nibali’s expulsion.

“I have no comment on that,” he replied to one question. He followed with another, “I have no comment on that” when asked by someone else. He became more talkative when the topic changed.

Froome was once in Nibali’s shoes. Though not in contention for the overall in the 2010 Giro, he was booted for holding onto a police motorbike going up the Mortirolo climb.