Movistar sports director Max Sciandri has told the Italian press that he took Jumbo-Visma leader Primoz Roglic's bike to the finish of stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia in Como on Sunday after the Slovenian was forced to swap bikes with teammate Antwan Tolhoek due to a mechanical problem.
In recent days, the Italian media has questioned the whereabouts of Roglic's bike after the finish and whether it hadn't been inspected by the UCI post-stage. The so-called polemica surrounding the whole issue stems from the fact that Roglic's bike wasn't initially at the finish of the stage, where UCI officials have the right to inspect all bikes for any sign of 'mechanical doping' – i.e. hidden motors.
The bike didn't arrive at the finish with Jumbo-Visma's 'number one' car, as Roglic's sports director Addy Engels and his colleagues had stopped for a nature break when the call came over race radio that the team leader required a bike change.
Roglic – without any teammates – had to wait for Tolhoek to reach him, and then took the Dutch rider's bike, leaving his teammate at the side of the road with the broken one. A panicked, high-speed drive from Engels' fellow sports director Jan Boven meant that the mechanic in the team car bypassed Tolhoek to try come to Roglic's aid. Although by then it was decided that Roglic should stay on Tolhoek's bike while he tried to chase back to the other GC contenders. Roglic then crashed on the descent of the Civiglio, eventually losing 40 seconds to race leader Richard Carapaz (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
Retired pro rider Sciandri – formerly a sports director at the BMC Racing team and, prior to that, a coach at British Cycling – then came across Tolhoek while driving past in the Movistar team's second car, and offered him a spare Movistar bike.
According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, the stranded Tolhoek gladly accepted, but pointed out to Sciandri that Jumbo-Visma's bikes use Shimano pedals, and so his shoe cleats wouldn't be compatible with the Movistar bike's Look pedals.
At that point, Sciandri apparently unscrewed the pedals from the Movistar bike and replaced them with the pedals from Roglic's bike, allowing Tolhoek to ride the Movistar bike to the finish, although when talking to Cyclingnews about the incident, Engels believed that the two teams' 'second' cars had swapped the bikes back again before the finish.
Either way, as Engels made clear, Roglic's bike did indeed make it back to the finish in Como. It turns out that it was apparently simply on the roof rack of a Movistar car, rather than a Jumbo-Visma vehicle.
"I loaded it [Roglic's bike onto the Movistar car] and took it to the finish line, and then at the end of the stage I returned it to Jumbo-Visma. That's all," Sciandri told Italian website tuttobiciweb.it.
"Why didn't I say that before? Because no one has asked me except you," he added "I did what I had to do as a sportsman, and then if they really wanted to say something, that was up to Jumbo-Visma. I only regret that people are suspicious of Roglic, as, frankly, I don't know why."
Sciandri also suggested to El Pais what he might have done if he'd been in the same situation as the lead Jumbo-Visma car – in terms of needing a nature break – and said that the team had appeared nervous in the race convoy before things began to fall to pieces.
"I've done [one-day Classic] Il Lombardia a number of times," Sciandri told El Pais, "which has the same finish as Sunday's stage did, and at that point I've always wanted to stop for a toilet break, because it's a short window of opportunity to relax after the stress of going up and down the [climbs of the] Ghisallo and Sormano.
"But I've never stopped, of course. You always have to be close to your leader, and not leave him alone for a second," he said.
"When I drive among the team cars, I like to see how my rivals are driving them, because they tell me a lot about what plans they have for the stage, the state of their leaders, many things," continued Sciandri. "And, even before Roglic's mechanical problem, the Jumbo driver was very nervous. He was driving very roughly, braking, lurching… It was a sign that everything wasn't going perfectly."