Deceuninck-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere has criticized the UCI jury at the Tour of California after they overturned the results from stage 4, a move that removed the leader’s jersey from the shoulders of his rider Kasper Asgreen and gave it back to Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First).
The controversy centered around a number of incidents involving van Garderen. The American crashed inside the final 10 kilometres and was making his way back to the bunch when a second crash occurred in the peloton. Van Garderen was unable to make contact with the main peloton and finished almost a minute down on the stage winner and a group that contained Asgreen.
Van Garderen’s EF Education First team argued that the second crash hampered his chances of regaining contact with the race, and even though the fall took place outside of the three-kilometre rule point, the race jury decided in van Garderen’s favour. Asgreen had initially been announced as the race leader but after a period of confusion van Garderen emerged in the yellow jersey with his slender lead over Asgreen remaining at six seconds.
“I don’t understand. It’s about cycling, the UCI jury and how they are incompetent,” Lefevere told Cyclingnews after he had stayed up until the small hours in Belgium to watch the race.
“What we saw wasn’t normal. I’m at a complete loss. We have some people who have been given some responsibility and they can’t handle it.”
Incompetent UCI commissaries
Lefevere confirmed that he would appeal the decision and that it set a dangerous precedent for the sport because the race jury decided to extend the three-kilometre rule for van Garderen even though he was not part of the peloton when the second crash took place.
“As a team we’re fighting to stay in the front of the race. If Tejay van Garderen is at the back of the bunch it’s not my fault or that of my riders,” Lefevere argued.
“I don’t know why van Garderen was there but he crashed. He took a bike off a teammate and no one is talking about the fact he sat directly behind the team car. He went straight at a corner because of the problem he had with his brakes. Then there’s the big crash and he had to slow down but he didn’t make it back to the race.
“I put it all down to the incompetent UCI commissaries. So now every time there’s a crash are we going to look at this example? Is there no GC anymore? Remember the crash at Tirreno a few years ago with Team Sky because of their wheels. Are we going to go back and give them the same time as the winner because they had bad luck? You’re violating all the rules of cycling.”
Lefevere recently saw a stage win for one of his riders chalked off at the Giro d’Italia after Elia Viviani was judged to have hampered a rival in a sprint finish. Lefevere suggested that the incident in California was important because it set a dangerous trend, and while he had sympathy for van Garderen’s after his fall, he argued that the rules needed to be applied consistently.
“The sport is a war between the white line at the start and the white line in the finish. Everything in between is racing,” Lefevere said.
“You have to keep your hands on the bars, you have to follow the rules, but you can’t do what they’ve done to the rules. What they’ve done is very dangerous because it could be the difference between winning and losing the race.
“Is it because he’s American? I don’t know. I hope not. Look, nobody wants crashes. The worst thing in cycling is the crashes but we will appeal. It’s about the principle.”