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Peloton of 93 riders re-admitted to Vuelta a Espana after missing time limit

A brief communiqué issued by the Vuelta a Espana's UCI commissaires confirmed late on Sunday evening that 93 riders who had missed the time limit by over 20 minutes would be re-admitted to the race.

The time limit for the 118.5 kilometre stage, run off at an average speed of 40.745 km/h and lasting just over 2 hours and 45 minutes was set at 31 minutes and 24 seconds, and the main peloton of 93 riders crossed the finish line at 52 minutes and 54 seconds.

The stage's high pace was due to an allout, day long attack by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) together with 12 other breakaways, and the hot pursuit behind by Astana, Sky, and Orica-BikeExchange. Although most of the riders involved early on chased hard, a large number of the remainder were blown out by the pace or simply decided to save what energy they could for the six stages to come.

"The race commissaires, having discussed the situation, with the race organisation, the AIGCP rep and the technical directors of the race consider that the image of cycling would be negative if the 71st Vuelta has to continue with only 71 riders from the 16th stage onwards," the UCI communique read.

At the finish line itself during the wait, the realisation that the bulk of the peloton was not about to turn up grew steadily as team support staff remained present in large numbers int the finish area despite the stage winner and chasing group long having crossed the line. In one corner of the fenced off finishing park, set in a car park at the ski station, the leader of the respective classifications had ample time to get up onto the podium to receive their prizes and then moved on to the various media-pens.

In a seemingly frantic bid to maintain the momentum of his commentary at the finish, the Vuelta's race speaker began to talk about the scenery and the  'peloton of sheep we can see on the mountain up there with their shepherds.' But in the distance of the 400 metre finishing straight, set on a broad, buildingless, hillside amidst high Pyrenean mountains, for all the four-footed variety there might be around, none of the missing members of the Vuelta's two-wheeled peloton appeared.

Comments of the "they're bound to re-admit them if there's so many outside the cut" began to abound amongst waiting fans and team staff as the minutes ticked by and the 31 minute and 24 second limit remorselessly came closer on the finishing barrier.

But after the lone figure of the 71st rider, Davide Villela (Cannondale-Drapac) loomed on the horizon and pedaled slowly up to the line, at 24 minutes and 48 seconds, and then was sent back down the road to the team buses five kilometres further below, for almost 20 minutes only David Lopez (Sky) and Sam Bewley (Orica-BikeExchange) broke the monotony of waiting.

Finally, after a near 30 minute drought and well beyond the time limit there was a flood of figures on the line, with all the remaining riders finishing in one big group. But the official reprieve took a further two hours to appear. 

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.