Bike checks disrupt Tinkoff-Saxo at the Tour of Austria

Officials enforced bike checks in the final minutes before the start at the Tour of Austria Saturday, creating confusion and frustration among some riders and teams.

The 5.4-kilometre team time trial was the first of nine days of racing in Austria. Team Katusha logged the winning time of 05:45.38, exactly one second ahead of MTN-Qhubeka and five ahead of BMC Racing. Rudi Selig was the first to cross the line for Katusha and so took the first yellow jersey.

However there was anger and disappointment after the race. According to a press release from Tinkoff-Saxo, teams started in two-minute intervals, while it is customary to have at least three minutes between starts during a team time trial. Bike checks by UCI race officials are usual done several hours before the event but this time they were done as the teams arrived at the start ramp, with delay with one team going on to affect the other teams. Tinkoff-Saxo was the worst hit when half of their team were delayed 15 seconds, while BMC Racing team was forced to start without Peter Velits, the Slovakian national time trial champion.

“We’ve complained to the organizers, as all our riders were on site and present as required,” explained Nicki Sørensen, team director of Tinkoff-Saxo in the team statement. “It’s a costly mistake and it’s a shame, as we are here to compete for a top spot in the general classification.”

The squad finished in last place out of 20 teams, 27-seconds down from Katusha. “One rider from BMC was delayed, so as a result, the controls of our bikes started less than two minutes before the scheduled start,” Sørensen added.

Four members of their squad were held back, including Kiserlovski, their GC captain. The team expects to receive a verdict on their complaint Sunday. “We will have to wait and see what the result of the complaint will be and if we are compensated in any way,” Sørensen said.

BMC Racing also had problems as Peter Velits was held from starting when his saddle height was ruled illegal. Velits was looking forward to making his return to racing following a long and slow recovery from having surgery on his left leg in early April.

"The saddle of Peter was 0.3 millimetres out of the level," Valerio Piva said, BMC Racing team sport director said. "They usually do not check the road bikes before a race like this and they did not have a jig to measure the bikes. Without this problem, I think we would have been fighting for the victory."

The UCI states that organisers of competitions recognized by the UCI, including time trials, are required to provide the commissaires with a proper measuring jig for bicycles that meet certain regulations as listed by the UCI on their website. While organizers are allowed to build their own, the UCI is working upon having some already approved for direct order. There is no specified time regulations listed for before a time trial however, when these measurements should take place.

As a result, BMC was scrambling to get into position less than 30 seconds before their start time due to the delay. “We did a good job of refocusing once we were out there,” Brent Bookwalter stated. “"But there was still some confusion of how many riders we had and it took a minute to re-position. I felt like we finished very strong. But in such a short race, it's hard to pull back any time once we are a couple seconds back."

Meanwhile, Tinkoff-Saxo remains determined to do their best despite the trouble at the start. “The team has put in a lot of effort and preparation to come here to Tour of Austria well prepared and as a serious contender in the race,” Sørensen concluded. “We will look ahead and do our best as we always do on the stages to come.”

Racing at the Tour of Austria continues Sunday with a 206.6 km stage from Mörbisch to Scheibbs.

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