Despite crossing the line first and initially thinking that he'd won stage 5 of the Tour Down Under in Strathalbyn on Saturday, Lotto Soudal's Caleb Ewan was relegated to last place in the front group after appearing to tangle in the last few hundred metres with Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates), who was the second rider across the line before being promoted to first place.
According to the official UCI commissaire's communiqué, Ewan's disqualification from first place was as a result of "an irregular final sprint", and as well as being relegated to last place in the group – to 83rd place – the Australian sprinter was also handed a time penalty of 30 seconds, deducted 15 points in the sprints competition and fined 500 Swiss francs.
UCI regulation 2.12.007, article 5.1, which was applied in Ewan's case, states: Deviation from the chosen line that obstructs or endangers another rider or irregular sprint (including pulling the jersey or saddle of another rider, intimidation or threat, blow from the head, knee, elbow, shoulder, hand, etc.).
Ewan came from a long way back in the final sprint, and appeared to go shoulder-to-shoulder with Philipsen – and to use his head – to get on Peter Sagan's wheel, before bursting clear of the Bora-Hansgrohe rider's wheel to finish first on the stage, with Philipsen finishing second and Sagan third across the line.
The revised results, however, mean that Philipsen was handed the victory, with Sagan up to second place and Jumbo-Visma's Danny Van Poppel third.
"This is very disappointing. I was so looking forward to my first official victory for Lotto Soudal. After crossing the line, it felt like a massive relief, but the next moment all of that joy disappeared when I heard that I had been relegated," Ewan said in a statement from his team.
"During the final kilometres, I was on Peter Sagan's wheel, but Philipsen tried to take that spot as he tried to push me out of Sagan's wheel. You are not allowed to take your hands off the handlebars in the sprint, so I used my head to avoid ending up in the barriers. Head movements are of course clearly visible on a helicopter shot, but a lot of former sprinters will confirm that my manoeuvre was not irregular.
"Of course, I have to accept the decision taken by the jury, but I don't agree with it."
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