Thursday's stage 13 brought more misery at the Tour de France for Lotto Soudal sprinter Caleb Ewan, who finished 20 minutes down after a mid-stage crash followed by an ultimately failed chase back to the peloton.
However, the Australian's travails also had an effect elsewhere in the race. Alpecin-Deceuninck eventually giving up the chase behind the break after Lotto Soudal had faded away from the front of the peloton with no sprinter to work for.
The Belgian team also suffered a 1,000CHF (€1,015) fine – along with a 200CHF fine for Ewan – for their car's part in assisting the rival sprinter in his chase.
Ewan, who was later listed in the Tour's medical report as having suffered a 'left knee trauma' could be seen following closely at the rear of one of the Alpecin-Deceuninck cars following his crash 72km from the line. A UCI motorbike commissaire noticed, too, animatedly gesticulating (see the video below) at team directeur sportif Michel Cornelisse as the vehicles sped along.
Cornelisse's team would eventually be fined twice – once for helping Ewan 'shelter behind or take advantage of the slipstream of a vehicle', and once again for 'failing to respect the instructions of the organiser or commissaires'.
Speaking after the stage, Cornelisse told Dutch TV station NOS that he had nowhere to go as Ewan tailed his car, as he was blocked in by police motorbikes.
"I don't know why that man was making such a fuss," Cornelisse said. "I see crashes happen all week and riders are allowed to return behind the car, so I thought 'why not?' There was no team car around [for Ewan] so I wanted to take him.
"Then the commissaire came and I tried to accelerate but there were two police motorbikes in front of me. I was already going at 80kph. I couldn't drive faster there. Ewan was almost at the cars, so I don't know why the guy was so upset."
Cornelisse added that he was later thanked by the Lotto Soudal directors, adding that he had an ulterior motive in helping Ewan get back to the peloton in any case.
"That man had no feelings or anything. It's not a rider from my own team, and the guy fell," he said.
"That's a very different story," he noted, remarking that Lotto Soudal would have further helped Alpecin-Deceuninck in the chase with Ewan back in the peloton. "We were the only team still in the race, otherwise the peloton would have come in 20 minutes down.
"Then the commissaire doesn't understand much about cycling. It became very difficult. More teams could have given support. We're disappointed for Jasper Philipsen – we did everything we could, but it didn't work out."
In addition to the 1000CHF of fines doled out to Alpecin-Deceuninck, Ewan received a time penalty of a minute in the general classification as well as 10 points in the points classification and a single point in the mountain classification to accompany his 500CHF fine.
Ewan said after the stage that his knee and shoulders felt painful after his crash, but that he likely wouldn't be able to fully evaluate how he felt until Saturday morning ahead of stage 14 from Saint-Etienne to Mende.
"Once you stay pretty warm, everything feels alright, but I think once I cool down a bit, I'll start to feel it, but my knee's pretty sore, my shoulders are pretty sore. I broke my collarbone last year, so it's fine," he said.
"I definitely don't think anything's broken, but you never really know until you've cooled down, and probably the next morning, to see where all the niggles are. Now I feel alright, so we'll see."
Ref not happy with the car drafting Caleb Ewan... #TDF2022 pic.twitter.com/JQO2sJYkKUJuly 15, 2022
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