The UCI commissaires once again found themselves in the centre of a storm at the Tour de France on Thursday after penalising Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac) and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) for illegally taking a feed on stage 12, but pardoning Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) of the same offense.
Both Urán and Bennett were slapped with 20-second penalties for breaking UCI rules, while Bardet, who won the stage and closed in on yellow, escaped any punishment.
All three riders grabbed bottles from the roadside inside the closing kilometres of the climb, contravening rule 2.3.027, which states that riders are not allowed to take on feeds inside the final 20 kilometres of racing.
At the finish, Uran and Bennett were quickly made aware of their punishment, and Cannondale-Drapac, on behalf of Uran, logged a complaint.
"So Charly Wegelius calls Philippe Marien, the head of the UCI jury, to basically protest the penalty against Rigoberto," Cannondale-Drapac's Jonathan Vaughters told Cyclingnews.
"Our original protest was based off the assumption that the UCI thought that the feed came from someone on team staff with 6km [to go]. The case is that the actual feed came from someone who works for Cannondale France as a marketing guy. They have no license with our team and we're the last people that would have a poorly placed feed. This guy was doing it on his volition. It's unfortunate, but he's not with us.
"We assumed that's why we had the penalty and Bardet didn't, but Marien's first response was that he didn't care if the feed came from a small child or anyone, the penalty would still be the same.
"I feel that Phillipe Marien has made an either incompetent or biased decision in this matter. They're making it up as they go along, and it's completely incompetent officiating. If they're going to be fair, be fair," Vaughters added.
Cannondale-Drapac lodged a second complaint over the decision, having seen video footage of Bardet appearing to take on a bidon at the same time as Bennett.
"Second phone call we send him the slow-motion video of Bardet taking a feed. His second response is that he can't tell if Bardet is drinking out of the bottle or not. George Bennett took a feed from the exact same people as Bardet. The UCI then told us that it didn't matter because it wasn't from a team official. They completely reverted."
The decision has left Vaughters reeling. While riders know the rules and are ultimately responsible for their own actions, Vaughters believes that the governing body should exercise greater consistency in the application of their own rules. He also voiced concern about officials' decisions getting in the way of the actual race.
"I'd rather no one got the penalty," he said. "The Tour de France shouldn't be decided by water bottles."
Cylingnews contacted Marien, but he was not available for comment.
Just posted a video https://t.co/XFNrN6i3BM— Jonathan Vaughters (@Vaughters) July 14, 2017