TDU Festival of Cycling leader Whelan hit with ‘unjustified’ time penalty

The Victorian was docked one minute for drafting behind his team car. His team feels that penalty was unfair.

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James Whelan’s dream start to the Santos Festival of Cycling has been soured by a one-minute time penalty handed down by commissaires after the BridgeLane rider’s stage 1 solo victory.

Whelan suffered a mechanical in the neutral zone of the opening stage, which would normally have seen the race’s proper start delayed until Whelan returned to the bunch. Instead, the race continued, leaving Whelan behind, receiving service from his team car.

“Once [the mechanical] was rectified, Whelan was pushed off to chase the race,” Team BridgeLane said in a statement during stage 2. “The race vehicle [team car] made contact with Whelan again at kilometre six and supported him to reach the back of the race, of which he made contact at kilometre 10.

“Due to this, we received a 60-second penalty for motor pacing our rider for longer than two kilometres.”

Whelan’s solo win on stage 1 gave him an initial lead of 1:27 in the general classification. The time penalty meant he instead started stage 2 just 27 seconds ahead of teammate Matt Dinham.

In its statement, BridgeLane said the penalty was unfair.

“Commisaries (sic) failed to take action on the incident though Whelan followed all procedures to alert them of the incident,” the team wrote. “The commisaries (sic) failed to neutralise the race within the neutral zone, putting Whelan at a significant disadvantage. Thus, the actions that led to the penalty were unjustified.”

BridgeLane tried to appeal the decision, but the team claims that request was denied by commissaires.

Whelan, meanwhile, said at the start of stage 2 that he would try to put the incident behind him.

“It was a super result for the team yesterday,” he said. “Obviously it was pretty disappointing with the time penalty. I won’t dwell on that. We’ll focus on today.

“We’ve got a jersey to defend, and whether that’s with defence or offence, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Interestingly, the neutral zone on stage 2 also saw a rider have a mechanical issue. On that occasion, the peloton was brought to a stop to allow the rider to return to the bunch before racing began.

The Santos Festival of Cycling is a domestic-level National Road Series event that, for the second year running, replaces the COVID-affected Tour Down Under.

Mechanical on stage 2, neutralised

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