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The Vuelta peloton rolled to a stop in Villaviciosa, putting a hold on the start of stage 11 in protest of unclear time gap rules that led to a change in the race’s overall leader on Friday.
Prior to Fridays’ stage, commissars had designated the finish of stage 10 as an expected bunch sprint, meaning time gaps between groups would be taken only if those gaps were larger than 3 seconds. That decision was later reversed, setting the time gap trigger at only 1 second, as is the case on non-sprint stages.
The stage ended with a 1.5 km, 5.9% ramp to the finish line.
As a result of the time gap rule change, a small gap between the front eight riders and the rest of the peloton led race leader Richard Carapaz of Ineos to lose time to Primoz Roglic. The three-second gap, plus Roglic’s time bonus for winning the stage, put the Slovenian into the overall lead.
Ineos’ Chris Froome led the protest. Discontent over the decision had swelled overnight, and Froome could be seen standing at the front of the peloton and discussing, at a distance, the issue with race director Javier Guillén.
EF’s Mike Woods spoke to Eurosport before the start and lamented the commissar’s decision to change the rules after the fact.
“It was a mistake on the UCI commissioners’ part,” he said. “They initially said at the start of the race there was going to be a three-second gap as opposed to a one-second gap. Looking at the finish, it should have been a one-second gap but they said that at the start, and at the finish they changed their minds.”
That announcement led the peloton to race the finale differently than they would have otherwise, Woods said. His teammate, Hugh Carthy, lost 10 seconds on the day.
“I don’t think that’s fair and I don’t think you can change the rules on a whim, because that alters how we would have raced,” he said. “Obviously, Hugh Carthy would have been more aggressive going into the finish, trying to get further up in position just so he wouldn’t have had to make up for those time gaps.”
It’s unclear at this time whether the protest affected any change. The men’s peloton has used its voice more frequently than usual this year. Just a week ago, riders protested the prospect of racing the longest stage of the Giro d’Italia through cold rain, and after negotiations were loaded into team buses and driven down the course, removing 124 km from the day’s 258 km route.