Not for the first time this season, camera footage of an incident in a Grand Tour has resulted in the UCI’s race jury having to take action against a rider. In the Giro d’Italia one of the pre-race favourites, Richie Porte, and his compatriot Simon Clarke were given time penalties for collusion because of a wheel change between riders from opposing teams. In stage two of the Vuelta a España yesterday, the former champion Vincenzo Nibali was evicted after helicopter footage from a broadcaster showed him holding onto his Astana team car. He had been involved in a crash with around 30km to go and it took some time before he could resume the race. He chased with a group of riders until the car appeared a the front of his group of riders… and duly towed him forward.
The reaction on social media – including the FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts from RIDE Media – has been considerable. Nibali and the driver, Alexander Shefer – the Astana team as a whole – have received a lambasting for the action that was taken in the heat of competition.
The race organisers accept that the commissaires had little choice but to respond to the footage. Disqualification for Nibali, eviction from the race for Shefer, and (minor) financial penalties are the result of momentary brain fades. The footage doesn’t lie; the act was one of stupidity and no matter how brief the assistance, it is blatant and clearly contrary to the ethics of proper competition. Nonetheless, the rider was compelled to explain himself on the evening of the incident.
He posted the following on his Facebook page (in Italian). Below is a translation of Nibali’s message to his fans on the evening of stage two…
Vincenzo Nibali’s explanation of events…
“I publicly apologise for what happened today to everyone who felt enraged or ashamed on my behalf. Many of you have never ridden a bike competitively, others are long-time fans, others got closer to the sport in these past years! Bike and cycling are a passion, love, days away from family with hard trainings, many sacrifices- starting from when you are approximately 16 years old! What happened today at the Vuelta happens at every race, but that doesn’t automatically mean that it’s not wrong or that I should not be punished! Judges have to decide which punishment is appropriate in these cases.
“This year went terrible for a thousand different reasons, I come to the Vuelta seeking for revenge after an horrible season, and I find myself with the ass on the ground – sorry for the swearword – I got back up thanks to a team-mate, hoping I didn’t hurt myself, I watched the scars the scorching hot asphalt left on me and looked for my bicycle which got destroyed.
“There’s panic and chaos in the peloton, I get back late… very late… too late. to the point that when I get back I’m 1:20 behind, I start chasing without fear, without water, alone, I slowly get closer to the peloton and I find my team-mates waiting for me along the road, my head thinking that I have to go and reach the front for the people watching me, for those who love me, for my wife, my daughter and for those who are asking how am I feeling right now, I go forward to show that I didn’t hurt myself, until that costly mistake – a 150 metre long drag at which several people are ready to throw mud (e.g. “He only got back because he drafted”).
“No one mentions how I fell down, how the riders at the front kept going, he was alone chasing against 18 riders doing their best at the front! No, ladies and gentlemen, in cycling the race is a race and it doesn’t wait for you! This happens often in cycling, especially after a big crash!
“In the end, I would have expected anything – a heavy fine, a time penalty that would have put me out of the GC! I would have been OK even with a ten minutes penalty! After all, I wasn’t the first and won’t be the last doing this. I’m sorry for taking your time and thanks for the support you give me, or don’t give me! Have a nice evening and see you soon! Vince”
(From Vincenzo Nibali’s Facebook Page)
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