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Malcotti was eliminated from the race on stage 5 for receiving mechanical assistance from her team after peeling off to the side of the road from the front of the bunch with just over 60 kilometers to go.
Rule 2.3.030 of the UCI’s regulations states that: “Whatever the position of a rider in the race, he may receive such assistance and mechanical check (brakes for example) only to the rear of his bunch and when stationary.”
After picking up a new bike from her team and returning to the back of the peloton, Malcotti was quickly told to pull out of the race by the commissaires.
“They were pretty adamant that she had to get out of the race, they told her to pull over to the side of the road. I wish in other circumstances we could have her keep riding, but they said no way and she’s out of the race. It’s crazy for me,” Human Powered Health sport director Andrew Bajadali said.
“It’s at the discretion of the commissaire. I don’t know if he had something bad to eat. It is something that has happened, Barbara is devastated, and I feel absolutely horrible and I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight about this poor girl. She’s got some good legs, the mountains are coming, they are her forte and she can’t display what she came for. It’s sad for everyone.”
The situation occurred with just over 60 kilometers to go and the team car was up with the breakaway and servicing Antri Christoforou, who had got into the early move, when it received a call on the radio that it needed to attend to Malcotti in the bunch behind.
Unlike at men’s races, each team has just one vehicle within the race to service its riders. It meant that the Human Powered Health vehicle would have to go from the breakaway to the back of the peloton.
Rather than drop through the bunch on the move, Bajadali decided to pull over to the right side of the road and wait for the bunch to come to the car.
“In the men’s peloton, you would have car two that would be servicing the breakaway, and in that circumstance, it wouldn’t have been a problem,” he said. “We were servicing Antri up in the break, the break had almost four minutes and Barbara needed a bike change because she had broken her shifter. We made the call to pull off and wait for the bunch. We needed to feed the rest of the riders in the bunch anyway.
“We pulled off and our mechanic got her bike off. I believe that the technical aspect of it is that Barbara should be at the rear of the bunch and then stop. She did it from the front of the bunch, we were clearly off to the side of the road, and she was at the rear of the bunch when she got back on her bike and got back in.
“It’s a call that was very harsh from the commissaire. They could have fined us or given us a severe warning and moved on from it… technically we were in the wrong, but in the circumstance, it’s a really hard call.”
Bajadli tried to make his case to the commissaires to keep Malcotti in the race but there was no reversing the decision once it had been made and she had to get into the team car. The team still has five riders in the race to focus on, but Bajadali said that he feels terrible for what went on.
“We pleaded and there’s only so much you can do. I’m not going to cuss out the commissaire, I tried to keep it respectful. Part of the job is being calm and cool-headed, and in these circumstances, you kind of lose your mind, but you have to collect yourself and focus on what we do have going on,” he said.
“I don’t really understand the rationale for it. Arguing for 20 minutes with them is not going to change their minds, especially when they’re so decisive. It’s bad for everyone involved. It doesn’t look good for the race, it doesn’t look good for us. It’s a really weird thing. It’s like some weird technicality in baseball, it’s a weird call. It happened and we have to move on but it’s something that will stay with me, I’ll never forget this.”