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The 2010 race winner Vincenzo Nibali has been disqualified from this year’s Vuelta a España, with the race jury ejecting him from the race after he was towed by his Astana team car.
Nibali was one of many riders who were delayed by a big pileup inside the final 30 kilometres of the race. He needed a change in bike but delays in receiving the machine meant that he was facing a big chase back.
Astana team-mates helped him set off in pursuit, and he finally managed to bridge just over ten kilometres before the finish.
That gave him time to recover before the final climb and he crossed the line 31st, one minute and 28 seconds back.
However controversy emerged after the stage when replays started circulating of his time chasing back. The footage shows him leading a pack of riders in pursuit; his Astana team car pulls alongside him and then both it and the rider rapidly accelerate, leaving those on his wheel for dust.
The footage shows that he either held onto the car itself or onto a bottle extended from the open window.
Unconfirmed reports from the race first suggested that the race jury wanted to expel him from the event, but that his Astana team had asked them to instead impose a ten minute time penalty.
Since then the final decision has been announced by Bruno Valcic, the president of the jury. “Nibali hold on to the car for several hundred meters. The rules are clear. Nibali is now disqualified from the race,” stated Valcic.
Also heading home is Alexander Shefer, the team directeur sportif who was driving the vehicle in question.
Under the penalty announced, the team will be one car down for the next two days.