EF Education-EasyPost boss Jonathan Vaughters was a sought-after man the morning after stage 5’s day out over the cobbles of northern France. In the grand scheme of things, it was a pretty decent day for the American outfit, but it could have been golden – or yellow – if Neilson Powless had had just a handful more seconds in hand across the line.
“It was interesting,” Vaughters told media when asked about the post-stage debrief. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to disclose what we talk about in the debrief, that’s why it’s a private debrief, but yeah, I mean, listen: at the end of the day, it took longer than a normal debrief would, and at the end of it we came to a good conclusion and we came out of it in a good place as a unified team, so it took a while to get there but we got there.”
Internet conspiracies had swirled on seeing what was perceived as collusion between Alberto Bettiol and Tadej Pogačar of UAE Team Emirates late in stage 5. The Italian’s work on the front of the Pogačar group was perplexing at best given his two teammates up the road, and if it weren’t for his pulls, forcing Wout van Aert to tow his fallen teammates behind, maybe Powless would have started stage 6 in the yellow jersey.
“Listen, very bluntly speaking, you know Alberto won the most prestigious one-day race in the world a few years ago,” Vaughters explained, referring to Bettiol’s Tour of Flanders victory in 2019. “He’s had to deal with some incredibly difficult health issues since then, some health issues that for a lot of people would have ended their career, and he hasn’t been really at the front of a race for a while, and he hasn’t had really good legs for a long time.
“He just got into a situation where he was just overly excited and kind of forgot himself a little bit. I mean, he’ll say ‘I made a mistake’ and he owns that, he apologised to his teammates, said ‘I got too excited’, and that’s where we are, it’s really that simple. There’s not as many conspiracy theories as you evil journalists like to make.”
But how do you deal with it? Media asked.
“Spanking, we just spank…umm, sorry that’s in my private life, never mind,” Vaughters joked, and cleared his throat. “Listen, we just say bluntly, ‘Alberto, you need to come to the point where you admit you made a mistake and you apologise to your teammates and you apologise to the directors, and that’s that. And if you’re willing to do that, then you just move forward and go from there. And he was totally willing to do that and we’re moving forward. It’s not more complicated than that.”