Marianne Vos was celebrating victory at the Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden road race when commissaires made a very late decision to disqualify the Jumbo-Visma rider for breaking the so-called ‘puppy paws’ rule about 13 kilometres from the finish. With Vos relegated, Trek-Segafredo’s Audrey Cordon-Ragot inherited the victory.
“When I was in that ‘puppy paw position’, I quickly realised it was not allowed. I immediately switched to the correct position,” Vos said a while after the news broke. “Apparently, it was enough for the UCI to disqualify me.
“We’ll have to accept their decision. It is a pity, but it is a rule, and it is strictly enforced. You usually don’t ride in that position. I feel bad about it because I did not benefit from it, but rules are rules.”
The infraction came shortly after the decisive move broke clear from the speeding peloton. With the currently unbeatable Lorena Wiebes in the pack, attacks had been relentless in the late laps of the Swedish one-day race, and Vos was one of those determined to make something stick. She, Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM), Valerie Demey (Liv Racing Xstra) and Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo) eventually formed the winning move, and it was Vos who ultimately raised her arms in victory in Vårgårda.
However, there were rumblings among the most watchful eyes who had spotted Vos’s momentary lapse in judgment as decades of racing instinct brought her forearms down to her bars, fingertips dangling over the front wheel: ‘puppy paws’, i.e. a position that was banned by the UCI last season.
Vos had been celebrating a fourth victory at the race (she won in 2009, 2013 and 2018) with her teammates and giving post-race interviews, but all the while, the race jury was in discussion.
French national champion Cordon-Ragot was the fortunate beneficiary of Vos’s DSQ, but the upgrade from second place behind “the strongest rider in the peloton” to a 19th pro victory, her first at WorldTour level, registered as slightly hollow for the Trek-Segafredo rider.
“To be honest, I have a mixed feeling,” Cordon-Ragot said after learning she’d been crowned victor. “I’m super happy for the race I did, super proud of the performance of my teammates. We showed our strength with an amazing teamwork and my role was to finalize the huge work they did. That, for me, was the most important thing happened today and what I’ll retain from the race.”
Cordon-Ragot sees her victory in Sweden as just reward for herself and her team, which brought one of the strongest rosters to the Swedish one-day race, but concedes that, “On the other side, it’s a strange situation.
“After the finish line I was happy for my second place, and I am still proud of it,” Cordon-Ragot continued. “I had no regrets because I was beat by the strongest rider in the peloton at the moment. I was definitely not embarrassed to be second. But then I was told I was the winner and my name will be on the palmarès. Chapeau to Marianne, because she was the first who recognized that a rule is rule and accepted the sanction.”
That the final decision came more than 30 minutes after Vos had crossed the finish line makes the pill all the more bitter, echoing the devastatingly late disqualification suffered by Nils Eekhoff at the U23 road world champs in Harrogate in 2019.
It once again begs the question: surely an in-race infraction can and should be dealt with before the culprit has a chance of winning? Or having any more impact on the race?
As it is, with Vos being in that group, and one of the others being a teammate of Wiebes, it’s pretty likely that a DSQ on entry to the last lap, for instance, would have changed the outcome dramatically and Wiebes would be celebrating an umpteenth 2022 victory.
That said, the window was already pretty small, the incident coming so close to the end of the race, so it would have required very quick and decisive action from the race jury.
There is no perfect outcome, but what we’ve got is a race dominated tactically by Jumbo-Visma and Marianne Vos, whose signature is all over the last lap or so, but whose name does not appear at the top of the results sheet.
Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden RR (1.WWT) Vårgårda → Vårgårda