BMC Racing looked on target to add another team time trial win to their trophy case Tuesday at the Volta a Catalunya until Movistar, which started third from last of the 25 teams, knocked the team of Tejay van Garderen and Rohan Dennis from the hotseat by just two seconds.
The loss was an especially hard blow for BMC when TV images showed Movistar's Joaquin Rojas, who was sitting at the rear of the Spanish squad's formation, repeatedly assisting riders as they drifted back into the paceline.
BMC Racing immediately joined Trek-Segafredo, which finished fourth on the day, in protesting the final result because of Rojas' actions. The jury affirmed the protest, assessing Rojas a three-minute penalty, while teammates Nelson Oliviera and Andre Amador were given one- and two-minute penalties, respectively, for receiving the assistance.
The team as whole, however, was not penalised, boosting Alejandro Valverde to the top of the general classification. Needless to say, the decision did not sit well with BMC.
"When we saw that Rojas pushed his teammates forward on multiple occasions, which is a violation of UCI rules, we lodged a complaint with Trek-Segafredo," said BMC team director Jackson Stewart. "The outcome is disappointing as we felt we were the strongest on the day and we played by the rules."
BMC started the day eighth, some 45 minutes before Movistar left the start ramp. The team set the fastest time at 48:57 and looked to have secured the win before Movistar blasted across the first half of the 41km course eight seconds faster, eventually crossing the finish at 48:55.
Given the circumstances, the BMC riders stood by their performance as the best of the day.
"I think the team rode well today," Dennis was quoted in a statement released by the team. "We were really smooth over the whole 41.3km course, and in the end, we were the best team on the day. We didn't break any rules, and we were the strongest as a whole, so I think we have to take our hats off to ourselves."
Van Garderen backed up his Australian teammate.
"I second everything Rohan has said as well," van Garderen said. "We played by the rules, and we were the strongest team today."
BMC now have seven riders lined up in GC behind Valverde and four of his Movistar teammates, including Ruben Fernandez, Imanol Erviti, Marc Soler and Jonathan Castroviejo. BMC have Ben Hermans, Brent Bookwalter, van Garderen, Dennis, Kilian Frankiny, Alessandro De Marchi and Samuel Sanchez all two seconds down. Geraint Thomas leads a contingent of Team Sky riders that includes Chris Froome at 46 seconds back. Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) is 1:15 down.
The race continues Wednesday with a test in the mountains that includes three back-to-back category 1 climbs in the final 70km, including the summit finish on La Molina.
"I am surprised by some of the time gaps at the end of the stage," van Garderen said, "but it's definitely a good morale boost going into the rest of the week and especially tomorrow's stage. I have good memories on La Molina with top five finishes there over the past three years, and I have even won a stage here before, so I am looking forward to going back."
Despite the disappointment in not winning Tuesday’s stage, Stewart said the team were happy with the performance and outlook for the rest of the week.
"I don't think we expected some of the time gaps to be so big, but a team time trial is great in a race like this," he said. "It throws time gaps into the mix, and it changes how the climbing stages will be raced, which will make things interesting."