Tour de France theater returns with controversial Alaphilippe ruling

The UCI rulebook is thick with fine print, yet one of the longest-running rules is limits on taking feeds.

Photo: Stephan Mantey - Pool/Getty Images

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PRIVAS, France (VN) — Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was in the shower. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) was being told live on the air.

The Frenchman’s debonair look turned crestfallen when the news was confirmed: the jury hit him with a 20-second time penalty for an illegal feed within 20km of the finish line.


“There’s nothing I can do about it now,” said Alaphilippe sullenly. “The rules are the rules.”

And just like, he dropped from first to 16th at 16 seconds back.

At least they didn’t rip it off his back following the podium ceremony.

Wednesday’s ruling — somewhat surprising that it came against a French rider at the Tour — sent Yates scrambling out of the team bus, and back to the finish-line podium.

Yates had finished third into Nice on Sunday when Alaphilippe won, and climbed into second after Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) fell off the pace Tuesday.

Earning his first yellow jersey by penalty was hardly how Yates envisioned it.

“This is not the way I would want to take the yellow jersey,” Yates said. “I’d rather get it taking time or winning a stage.”

Yates did confirm, however, he plans on wearing the yellow jersey in Thursday’s stage.

With the controversy, now the Tour de France has officially begun.

The Tour isn’t the Tour without at least some controversy. There was a hint of polemic on the first stage around Nice, when riders crashed and grumbled that officials were not watching out for their safety.

Wednesday’s jury ruling saw the Tour return to its best — or worst — depending on how you look at it.

The UCI rulebook is thick with fine print, yet one of the longest-running rules is limits on taking feeds. Twenty kilometers is the existing limit, but it can be changed due to heat or other extreme conditions.

There was no call made over race radio about changing the limit Wednesday, so when someone on Deceuninck-Quick-Step passed up bottles with 17km to go, someone made a mistake.

The race jury spotted this and handed down the sanction.

Sometimes riders will take a bottle and accept the time penalty because they’re on the edge of bonking. Chris Froome did it famously on Alpe d’Huez a few years ago, gladly accepting the infraction rather than risk losing minutes if he blew up.

Alaphilippe didn’t say if he was on the edge of bonking, but didn’t offer much in the way of comment after he had the jersey stripped away.

“The rules are the rules,” he said, perhaps hinting at revenge. “Tomorrow I am going to wake up, and not talk about it anymore. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Compatriot Benoit Cosnefroy (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who was standing alongside Alaphilippe waiting for his polka-dot jersey, said everyone knows the rules.

“It’s too bad for him,” Cosnefroy said. “But we are all aware the rules are the rules, and that there are no feeds with less than 20km to go. His team knew it as well.”

The ruling, however, will likely be the end of Alaphilippe’s magical run in this year’s Tour.

It’s unlikely he will be able to mount a comeback Thursday in the challenging stage, unless he drops the entire bunch and gains back time bonuses with the win.

The dashing Alaphilippe was the darling of last year’s Tour following his daring defense of yellow that went all the way into the Alps.

This year, Alaphilippe kept repeating that he wasn’t here to race for GC, but vowed to defend yellow as long as he could.

Having it taken away in a time penalty was hardly how he expected his yellow jersey defense to end.

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