Elia Viviani clearly didn't want to say something he might later regret. The Italian champion had spent long minutes in the video commissaire's truck at the finish line in Orbetello, reviewing footage of the closing metres of stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia as though it were the Zapruder film. Now, after trying and failing to overturn the decision to strip him of stage victory, Viviani was of little mind to make his case all over again for the assembled television cameras.
Instead, Viviani walked silently to his bike and pedalled slowly towards his Deceuninck-Quick Step bus, parked a mile away on the seafront. Another scrum of reporters was waiting for him when he skidded to a halt there, but the 30-year-old evaded them by dismounting from his bike and climbing up the stairs in one deft motion.
It was a manoeuvre of a different kind that saw Viviani relegated from first place to the back of the bunch. Viviani was tucked in behind stage 2 winner Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) when the sprint began before moving to his left to come around the German with 75 metres to go. That motion brought him into the path of Matteo Moschetti, however, and the race jury decreed that this deviation had impeded the Trek-Segafredo rider, with the stage win instead awarded to a surprised Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates).
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- Gaviria takes Giro stage 3 win after Viviani gets relegated – Video
Peter Sagan's ejection from the 2017 Tour de France convinced the UCI to introduce a video commissaire in the Grand Tours and Monuments last season. Bruno Valčić is the man in the video truck on this year's Giro, but while Deceuninck-Quick Step directeur sportif Rick Van Slycke saw the same footage of the sprint finish as the Croatian, he interpreted the images altogether differently.
"Look yourself to the sprint and you will see," Van Slycke said. "He came out of the wheel of Ackermann and he took the left side. He didn't see Moschetti and Moschetti was behind him. Then Elia takes his line and now they disqualify him.
"If they disqualify for this, then they will have a lot of work to do in the next sprints, I think. But we will see. They have to decide, and we have to wait."
Disqualifications for irregularities in the sprint are a recurring trend in Giro history and rare is the rider who admits culpability. Mario Cipollini, for instance – the man who holds the record for Giro stage wins – long maintained his final total should be 43 rather than 42, citing his disqualification in Cento in 1995, when Ján Svorada was awarded the victory.
Van Slycke, for his part, argued that the technical finale in Orbetello was itself in contravention of recommended practice for a Grand Tour finale. He pointed to the two nigh-on 90-degree turns forming a chicane inside the final 500 metres, though the sprinters had already safely navigated those obstacles before Viviani opened his sprint.
"There are technical guides and assistance from the UCI but if you see the finish, this is not a finish for a big tour," Van Slycke said. "That's one point. It's not because he's disqualified. But they should start there. If they want trouble, they have trouble with finishes like this."
Van Slycke's fellow directeur sportif Davide Bramati, meanwhile, noted that the headwind in the finishing straight meant that the fast men all started their efforts far later than they would otherwise have done. Viviani's decision to change his line thus came far closer to the finish banner than might normally have been the case.
"Today I think everybody knew there was a 65kph headwind so for the sprint you had to go at 75m to go. It wasn't a case of sprinting from 200m to go," Bramati said.
Regardless of Viviani's intent or lack thereof, however, the race jury deemed that his movement had impeded Moschetti, and he was thus stripped of what would have been the sixth Giro stage win of his career.
There was sympathy for Vivani's plight from his old teammate Gaviria, the man who inadvertently benefited from the jury's decision. Gaviria had to be summoned from the shower on the UAE Team Emirates bus to take his place in the podium ceremony, but speaking before he learnt of his elevation to first place, he pointed out that contact with other riders was almost an inevitability in such a fraught finale.
"I think I touched with one guy of Trek," Gaviria said. "But in this sprint, it was impossible not to touch other riders."
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