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Deceuninck-Quick-Step has acknowledged its error in giving Julian Alaphilippe a water bottle inside the final 20 kilometers of the fifth stage of the Tour de France, a decision that cost the Frenchman the yellow jersey.
The race jury decided to dock Alaphilippe 20 seconds for taking an illegal feed after he took a bottle from a Deceuninck staffer with a little over 17 kilometers to go. The penalty dropped him from first overall to 16th, with Adam Yates taking over control of the yellow jersey.
“It’s a pity to lose the yellow jersey like this. We know about the 20-kilometer rule, it’s there,” said Deceuninck sports director Tom Steels after the stage, noting that “today there were some circumstances” that led the team making the late bottle transfer.
“It was quite dangerous at 70 kilometers an hour, then there was a flat part to get into position for the climb. It was the only spot we still could give a bottle,” he said. “It’s a special Tour, everybody has to be careful with the bottles and we have to stay away from the public also. So there were some circumstances that we missed the 20 kilometer mark by two kilometers. We made a mistake. Nothing to do about it.”
The loss of the yellow jersey tempered what might have otherwise been a celebratory post-stage atmosphere for the team as Sam Bennett took over the green jersey from Peter Sagan on the day.
“Julian was very disappointed of course because in the end he did nothing wrong. He didn’t gain anything sporting-wise by drinking a few times from a bottle,” Steels said. “But he was also happy for Sam to take green, and step by step he came back to his senses. For him and also for the organization, for France, Julian is one of the most popular riders that there are, to take yellow away from him for this matter is very difficult to cope with. If you lose it because you’re not good enough, that’s no problem, but this way, it’s hard. But there’s nothing to do about it.”
Despite Alaphilippe’s drop down the GC standings, Steel vowed that the team would rally quickly and fight on at the Tour in pursuit of its objectives.
“There’s still two and a half weeks of Tour,” he said. “We will get back in a good way and we will try to win a stage again.”