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UCI backtracks on water bottle fine for Uran and Bennett

Joseph Delves
14 Jul 2017

Faced with having to penalise French stage winner Romain Bardet, commissaires scrap 20-second time penalty on Tour trio

The UCI race jury at the 2017 Tour de France has backtracked on its decision to penalise Cannondale-Drapac rider Rigoberto Uran 20 seconds for illegally taking a drink inside the final 20km of Stage 12 between Pau and Peyragudes yesterday.

The jury had initially ruled that Uran, 9th placed George Bennett (Lotto NL-Jumbo) and Serge Pauwels (Dimension-Data) had broken Tour rules by accepting bottles from the side of the road in the final 10km of a chaotic stage won by Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale).

However, when Cannondale-Drapac boss Jonathan Vaughters pointed out that Bardet himself had been guilty of the same offence, the jury backtracked on the decision, the alternative being to penalise Bardet too and thereby strip the Frenchman of his stage win.

Further complicating the matter was the fact that Uran took the bottle from a fan wearing a Cannondale shirt, who the jury initially took to be a team employee in reaching its decision to penalise the Colombian. When Vaughters pointed out that the person did indeed work for Cannondale France but had no connection to the team and was there in a private capacity (they also supplied Bennett with a bottle), he said the commissaires had responded that it didn't matter who had handed over the bottle, and that it was a transgression all the same.

About-face

According to Vaughters, it was at this point that he supplied race jury president Philippe Marien with video footage showing Bardet also taking a drink from the side of the road at the same point, and said that if Uran and Bennett were to be penalised so too should Bardet. The jury then decided to backtrack on the penalty, which means Uran is back to being just 35 seconds behind Tour leader Fabio Aru in fourth place overall.

Following the about-face, Vaughters emphasised that he had never asked for the decision to be scrapped, but simply to be applied evenly. He also played down suggestions that the initial decision had been a case of clear favouritism towards Bardet, saying it was more a case of ineptitude than malice.

UCI rule 2.3.027 states that riders are not allowed to take on feeds inside the final 20 kilometres of racing. Both riders had taken bottles from fans at the side of the road. The decision instantly proved widely unpopular, particularly as the practice is fairly widespread, even if riders frequently only pour the water over themselves rather than drink from the bottles.

There is strong precedent for the rule's enforcement. In 2013 Chris Froome (Team Sky) suffered the same punishment for taking a late gel while leading the race.

'I don’t think there is a French bias, I think there is incompetence. It would be better if no one was penalised,' Vaughters wrote on twitter.

Already under pressure following the contentious ejection of the green jersey Peter Sagan after Stage 4, and with the decision simmering overnight, this morning the UCI announced that no one was going to be penalised, though the official reason it gave made no mention of the back-and-forth between Vaughters and the race jury.

'In light of the inability of teams to resupply their riders before the last climb of Stage 12 of the 2017 Tour de France due to specific circumstances of the race which had blocked vehicles, the UCI Commissaires Panel has decided to annul the penalties imposed on riders Serge Pauwels (Team Dimension Data), George Bennett (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac),' a UCI statement said.

Whatever the reason, the decision means if nothing else that this year's Tour won’t potentially be decided by which riders did, or did not, take an extra drink.

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