Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) has been excluded from Paris-Nice after the race jury ruled that he received illegal assistance from his team car as he chased back on after crashing in the finale of Sunday's opening stage.
Bardet sustained cuts to his knee and thigh when he crashed with 22 kilometres remaining while part of the second group on the road in a stage that saw the peloton splintered into echelons by crosswinds.
The Frenchman remounted quickly and succeeded in latching back up to the chasing group as the race entered the final 10 kilometres. Host broadcaster France Télévisions showed only fleeting images of Bardet's pursuit through the race convoy, though on at least two occasions, the helicopter shot showed a mechanic leaning from the AG2R La Mondiale car window to perform adjustments to his bike as he rode.
Bardet succeeded in catching the small chasing group, which was being led by Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), with a little over 10 kilometres remaining. He was to the fore when that group fragmented on the final approach to the line, coming home alongside Richie Porte (BMC), 47 seconds down on stage winner Arnaud Démare (FDJ).
Within minutes of the finish, however, the race jury announced that Bardet had been excluded from the race for receiving illegal assistance from his team car, a punishment in line with that handed down to Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) for a similar offence on the opening stage of the 2015 Vuelta a España.
In a communique issued after the stage, the commissaires said that they had excluded Bardet for the specific infraction of holding onto his team car, and handed him a fine of 200 Swiss Francs. Directeur sportif Julien Jurdie has also been excluded for the remainder of Paris-Nice and AG2R La Mondiale will have just one team car in the race for the week.
It is understood that the commissaires made their decision based on television images showing Bardet being assisted by his team car. Bardet would issue a 'mea culpa' after the stage, apologising for mistake along with his his AG2R-La Mondiale team.
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