Nils Eekhoff's rider agency SEG Cycling is looking at the possibility of taking legal action against the UCI after the Dutch rider was stripped of the U23 road race title in dramatic fashion at the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire.
Eekhoff crossed the line first in Harrogate and duly celebrated with his teammates and coaching staff at the line. However, the race jury was asked to look back at video footage after the Dutch rider crashed with just under 130km to go and then used the slipstream of a team car to come back to the peloton.
Eekhoff was found guilty of violating rule 2.12.007 Art 4.7 of the UCI statute and given the maximum penalty of disqualification. Samuele Battistella (Italy) was handed the rainbow jersey as a result, while Eekhoff left the race in tears.
Eekhoff is on the books of Team Sunweb, but his management company, SEG, is one of the most prominent and respected athlete agencies in mainland Europe. In a message sent to Cyclingnews several hours after Eekhoff's expulsion, SEG said: "Together with Team Sunweb we'll research the situation and the legal options we've to defend Nils and make sure he gets the rainbow jersey that he deserves. Our legal department is currently studying the case."
There is no procedure for Eekhoff or the Dutch federation to appeal the UCI race jury's decision. The jury has the ultimate say in such matters, as Peter Sagan found out at the Tour de France in 2017 after a controversial crash, and Luke Rowe and Tony Martin also discovered after their altercation during this year's Tour.
The UCI has declined to release the full video footage, but has told Cyclingnews that the rider drafted behind the team car for over 30 seconds but less than a minute, although Eekhoff's coach later admitted that the time spent behind the car was closer to two minutes.
"I crashed, got a dislocated shoulder, put it back, but also had a mechanical so it took longer," Eekhoff told Cyclingnews and other reporters back at the Dutch hotel in Harrogate. "Then I got back on, the car brought me back to the caravan, and at that moment I rode myself towards the peloton.
"At the moment I crashed, it was still 125km to go. The race was still to be ridden. In my opinion, I fought for it. It should be possible after a crash that you can be brought back to the caravan. I had no idea I was taking a risk."
According to the UCI they could only view the video footage of Eekhoff's drafting after the race had taken place. Hence why an immediate disqualification was not possible during the racing. The incident was immediately reported by the VAR to the jury, but could not be checked until after Eekhoff and the rest of the lead group had crossed the line.
Full video of the #eekhoffgate episodeUCI had a 124 kilometers to take action.@nilseekhoff is the 🌈🥇U23 World Champion to me pic.twitter.com/NihEw5cqm4September 27, 2019
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