VAISON-LA-ROMAINE, France (VN) — Sky’s eyebrow-raising feed on the upper slopes of Mont Ventoux was legal.
That’s according to jury president Vicente Tortajada, who said that, despite being inside the 10km to go limit, the feed was within rules.
Why? Because the jury decided to change the feedzone limit to within 6km of the summit after considering the high speed and heat of Sunday’s 15th stage.
“Based on the heat and the speed of the stage, we made the decision to change the feedzone rule,” Tortajada told VeloNews. “We communicated that to everyone via race radio.”
Many were surprised to see Sky soigneurs, standing on the side of the road, pass off musette bags to Peter Kennaugh, Richie Porte, and Chris Froome after they’d passed the 10km banner.
UCI rules say that feeds are not allowed within 20km of the finish on flat stages and within 10km on climbing stages. Illegal feeds too close to the finish line can carry fines and even time penalties. The feed rules are primarily targeted at preventing riders from taking “sticky bottle” pulls from team cars and to prevent riders from taking drafts off team cars late in the race.
On Sunday, many assumed Sky was breaking rules, but the race jury did not issue any fines or rulings after the stage.
Many were quick to say, “gotcha,” and suggest that Sky was somehow bending the rules, but Tortajada just laughed when asked by VeloNews if the in-race commissaires missed what everyone in the world saw via television broadcasts.
“No, no,” he said. “We made the decision to change the limit, and broadcast it on race radio. That’s a decision the jury can make based on race conditions.”
No time cut adjustments for Alpe d’Huez
Tortajada is sure to be a protagonist again in Thursday’s double climb up Alpe d’Huez during stage 18.
There is already growing fear among the peloton that dozens of riders could miss the time cut. Depending on how the race unfolds, the peloton is sure to fracture on the first of two passages up the 21-lacet climb of the Alpe during the six-climb, 172-kilometer stage.
That means riders could be isolated on the first passage up the Alpe, then chase down the harrowing descent off the Cat. 2 Col de Sarenne, and hit the second passage up Alpe d’Huez with almost no hope of regrouping and making the time cut.
What’s certain is that the grupetto will be under the gun to arrive at the top of the Alpe in time. Rated at the Coefficient 5 in the Tour’s rulebook, the time limit for stage 18 will rest somewhere between 11 and 22 percent of the winner’s time, depending on his average speed (the faster the speed, the higher the time-limit percentage). According to the Tour’s rulebook, officials may extend that number “based on exceptional events only unpredictable and force majeure (weather, road closures, accident or serious incident, etc.). The delays can be modified according to the appreciation of the jury of commissaires, in accordance with the details of the race. Of course, all riders arriving in the new and fixed delays remain qualified for other stages without, however, a precedent could be created for the rest of the race.”
If the stage winner finishes in ASO’s fastest expected time of 4:53 (36 kph), the time limit will be roughly 38 minutes. If the winner’s time is 5:33 (32 kph), ASO’s slowest expected time, the limit will be close to an hour.
Tortajada and the jury didn’t bend the rules with injured American Ted King (Cannondale), who was eliminated from the Tour in the first week after missing the time cut by just seven seconds in the stage 4 team time trial. With that precedent, rivals like Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) — who hope to face off for the final-stage win on Sunday — will almost certainly be marshaling riders together into the autobus and pushing hard to make the limit.