UAE Team Emirates reacted to the time penalties given to three of their riders following the stage 16 time trial at the Giro d'Italia on Tuesday night. Team leader Fabio Aru was given a 20-second penalty, while Diego Ulissi and Valerio Conti were both handed two-minute penalties.
Aru – who fell entirely out of contention for the general classification by losing almost 20 minutes to race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) on stage 15 to Sappada on Sunday – played down any inference that he had tried to gain any sort of advantage during the TT.
"Thanks to the support of the tifosi when I got off the bus [ahead of the stage], I decided to give it everything in the time trial," Aru said, who had started the day in 22nd place overall, 25:14 minutes behind Yates.
"I respect the commissaires' decision," Aru continued, "but there was no intention to gain an unfair advantage. During the race, I caught some riders and in those sections of road there were motorbikes and cars. The commissaires may have decided to punish me while there was unintentionally a vehicle a short distance ahead of me."
UAE Team Emirates general manager Giuseppe Saronni also reacted to the time penalties meted out by the race judges.
"In a time trial in the final week of racing, with some riders no longer high up in the general classification, and when some are caught during the race, it can happen that, making a foolish mistake, they do some slipstreaming," Saronni said. "It should be avoided, but there's not too much to discuss in this case."
Regarding Aru's time penalty, specifically, Saronni said that it "definitely wasn't intentional".
"Of course, the decisions of the commissaires have to be accepted and respected," he added.
When it comes to Conti and Ulissi's two-minute time penalties, Cyclingnews understands that Conti was caught by his 'minute man', Ulissi, and then allowed Ulissi to ride in his slipstream for a time.
Without the two-minute penalty, Ulissi would have finished sixth on the stage – although in reality he might have finished further down had he not received any assistance.
UCI Chief Commissaire at the Giro, Randall Shafer, said that the team has "the right to come to talk to us, but ours is the decision to take".
Trek-Segafredo's Mads Pedersen, Quick-Step Floors' Rémi Cavagna and Israel Cycling Academy's Ben Hermans were also all handed 30-second time penalties.