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No Under 23 world title for Eekhoff: Appeal reaches dead end at CAS

Nils Eekhoff after his disqualification
Nils Eekhoff after his disqualification from the 2019 Worlds U23 road race (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Fourteen months after appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over his controversial disqualification from the 2019 World Championships Under 23 road race, Nils Eekhoff's case has been deemed inadmissible. 

The Dutch rider, who crossed the line first in Harrogate only to be penalised for drafting earlier in the race, revealed that the process had come to a dead end in an interview with Dutch newspaper AD

In fact, the process never got going, and he pointed out that he had to wait nearly a year and a half "for the verdict that they will not make a verdict". 

In the immediate aftermath of the Worlds disappointment, Eekhoff and his agent both insisted they would be exploring legal options, with no avenue for appeal with the UCI. 

Eekhoff was disqualified according to section 2.12.007 Art 4.7 of the UCI regulations, for excessive drafting behind a team vehicle as he was making his way back to the bunch after a crash. The footage was seen by the UCI's video referee but the decision to disqualify him was made 130km and three hours later after race officials came together, once Eekhoff had celebrated thinking he'd won a world title. 

"It has never really been about the case itself," he said. Not about the car that was on the course and that I hit. Not about whether you, as a rider, can get medical help first if you have a fall. Not about how long you can draft; not about why the jury didn't issue a warning. Not about why they did not issue a penalty until hours later. I was neither right nor wrong.

"I thought it was especially important to express my disagreement that they chose an U23 rider to set some kind of example," he added. "Because if you don't say anything, nothing will change."

Eekhoff admitted he has felt twinges of frustration when he's seen Samuele Battistella, who was awarded the rainbow jersey, in the peloton, but insisted he had quickly "drawn a line" under the incident. 

"That world title would have been good, but it would not have made much difference," he said, having already signed a first pro contract with Team DSM - then Sunweb. 

"For me it was the confirmation that I can win those kinds of races, it helped me to focus even more."

Eekhoff enjoyed a solid first season in the pros, helping Michael Matthews to victory at the Bretagne Classic and finishing second behind Mathieu van der Poel at the Dutch national championships. 

He revealed he'd been the butt of some jokes due to the whole Yorkshire episode.

"We drove back behind the cars after taking a piss with a group of riders, and Simon Geschke shouted that of course I would be the only one to be disqualified," he said.

"If you look at the letter of the law, it's not allowed, but every rider takes it for granted because it is tolerated in every race. Without those cars, if you crash, you're done. Everyone in the peloton knows how it works."