Bouhanni and Vuelta race leader Molard both handed time penalties

The new leader of the Vuelta a España, Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), has had his lead over Team Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski dramatically cut by a third following so-called 'illegal feeding' on stage 5.

For safety reasons, riders are not allowed to take food or drink products from their team cars inside the last 20km of a race – unless a pre-announced lesser distance is decided upon by the race commissaires.

The rule prevents cars from coming up to their riders in the closing stages of a race when attacks and tactics are often in full swing.

Molard was handed a 20-second time penalty in the general classification – a normal punishment for the offence – for having taken a feed from his team car inside the permitted distance to the finish of stage 5 in Roquetas de Mar on Wednesday, which cuts his overall lead to second-placed Kwiatkowski from the original gap of 1:01 to just 41 seconds.

Cofidis sprinter Nacer Bouhanni was also handed a time penalty on Wednesday, which was 30 seconds in his case.

It was reported in Spanish publication AS that Bouhanni's penalty had been for punching his directeur sportif and then the team car. Bouhanni denied it on twitter, saying that they were trying to make him out to be 'the bad boy that I am not'. Cofidis later published a statement categorically denying the incident, saying that Bouhanni's penalty was for an illegal feed.

"The Cofidis Team formally denies the information reported in the press concerning Nacer Bouhanni. There was never a fight between our leader and Jean Luc Jonrond, his sports director during the 5th stage of La Vuelta 2018," the team wrote.

"Nacer was penalized for an irregular feed at the end of the stage yesterday, ridden under a very strong heat and at a fast pace.The Cofidis team also denies all the information about the conflicts between Nacer Bouhanni and his sports management, they are totally false. Nacer has our confidence and we rely on him."

The Frenchman finished last on stage 5, alone, 25:26 down on stage winner Simon Clarke (EF Education First-Drapac) and 8:02 behind the second-to-last-placed rider on the stage, Quick-Step's Dries Devenyns, who was part of a 47-man autobus group that also contained Devenyns' teammate Elia Viviani and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).

As well as the 30-second time penalty for Bouhanni – who has struggled with his team's management this season – the Cofidis team car will also be relegated to last place in the convoy of cars for stage 6.

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