L'Equipe has reported that Team Sky were the source of the video that captured AG2R La Mondiale riders Alexandre Geniez and Nico Denz holding onto their team car during stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana.
A Team Sky spokesperson confirmed to Cyclingnews that the team shot the video from the team car, but said Team Sky did not forward the video to the commissaries or file an official complaint.
"We filmed the incident from a team car and unfortunately that footage subsequently appeared online," the spokesperson said. "No official complaint was made by the team and the footage was not sent to the commissaires. If we have a complaint to make as a team we would always do this through the proper channels."
The French rider quoted by L'Equipe said: "With what Sky and Froome do on social media, it's fair and square."
Geniez and Denz were sent home from the Vuelta a Espana by the French WorldTour team during Monday's rest day and were forced to issue a public apology for behaviour "contrary to the beliefs of the employer". L'Equipe has reported that directeur sportif Didier Jannel has also been put out of the race by the UCI jury, with the second AG2R-La Mondiale team car excluded from the rest of the race.
L'Equipe dedicated most of its cycling coverage in Wednesday's newspaper to AG2R-La Mondiale's decision to send Geniez and Denz home, with Chris Froome's time trial victory relegated to the bottom part of the page.
There have often been reports of riders holding onto team cars at the back of the peloton but evidence rarely emerges leaving race officials unable to punish those involved. However the proliferation of fans filming races with their mobile phones and posting clips on social media is now influencing the way race officials and those caught react. AG2R-La Mondiale team leader Romain Bardet was disqualified from Paris-Nice in March for holding onto a team car after a crash. Vincenzo Nibali was disqualified from the 2015 Vuelta a Espana after television images showed him holding onto a team car after a crash.
The latest video first emerged on Sunday evening after being posted on Twitter by Scott O'Raw of the Velocast podcast. It sparked a lot of comments, with Katusha rider Michael Morkov retweeting the video and writing: "Ride you bike @AG2RLMCyclisme or go home @lavuelta #disrespectfully"
O'Raw preferred not to reveal who sent him the video but insisted it was a trusted source that wanted to remain anonymous. O'Raw claimed in a string of comments that other riders told the AG2R-La Mondiale riders to stop holding the car. When that was ignored, some one decided to start filming.
A rider is seen looking back at the car that is filming the AG2R-La Mondiale car. L'Equipe claimed that a French rider who did not want to be identified confirmed it was a Team Sky vehicle.
"We were behind the AG2R car and we saw the people from Sky filming the scene," L'Equipe quote the French rider as saying. "With what Sky and Froome do on social media, it's fair and square."
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