Former Tour de France runner-up Nairo Quintana endured a tough time of things on the final mountain stage of this year's race, dropping from fourth to fifth on the general classification on the road to Hautacam after finishing in 13th place, 5:22 down on stage winner Jonas Vingegaard.
The Arkéa-Samsic leader had been battling with Frenchman David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) over fourth before the stage but now faces a fight with Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) to hang on to fifth in Saturday's final time trial.
Quintana's time loss on the 143.2km stage through the Pyrenees was exacerbated by a penalty handed down by UCI commissaires after he briefly pushed off a race motorbike on the penultimate climb of the stage, the Col de Spandelles.
While struggling to hang on to the elite GC group which included Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), and Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) midway up the climb, Quintana reached out to push off a TV moto filming behind the group. (Scroll down for a video of the incident.)
The push helped him make it back to the small group ahead of Gaudu, though the race would soon be shattered as Pogačar made the first of several attacks on the climb, sending Quintana backwards for good.
After the race, he was handed a time penalty for the incident per article 2.12.007, section 4.3, which specifies the punishments for 'pushing off against a car, motorcycle, rider'.
Quintana received a 10-second time penalty as a result, as well as a 200CHF fine and a deduction of 20% of his points and mountain classification points (four apiece). The ruling now puts him at 13:35 down on the race lead and eight seconds up on Meintjes while Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) lurks in seventh, 35 seconds back.
Nonetheless, the 32-year-old is currently set for Arkéa-Samsic's best-ever result at the Tour, with Warren Barguil's 10th place in 2019 the highest finish in the team's 17-year history.
"I gave it my all, I had a bit of trouble breathing," Quintana said after the stage. "But I don't want to use that as an excuse. I think we are doing a great Tour de France; the race was very fast.
"My teammates did a very good job. We all gave our best. I hope to set a good time now to be among the very first in this Tour de France. I raced with my heart, I threw all my strength into the battle, my head also played an important role.
"I have regained confidence in this Tour after some difficult years," he added, having finished 17th and 28th in his past two appearances after being hampered by injury. "That is a good thing for the future."
Quintana's punishment was one of several handed out during the stage, listed on the jury decisions sheet handed out at the press room at the end of every day at the Tour.
Movistar, and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert directeur sportifs were handed 500CHF fines for not respecting the instructions of the commissaires, while Cofidis received a 200CHF fine for the same offence relating to 'the positioning of assistants during refuelling'.
Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) and Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Alpecin-Deceuninck) were handed the mildest available penalty for incorrect behaviour in the form of insulting the commissaires – a 200CHF fine and a 10-UCI point penalty.
Finally, two motorbike drivers were excluded from the race for the remainder of the stage and for stage 19 for breaching 'regulations or guidelines concerning vehicle movements during the race', which contributed to the crashes of Nils Eekhoff (Team DSM) and Jack Bauer (BikeExchange-Jayco).
Esta fue la acción en la que Nairo Quintana se agarró de una moto en la etapa 18 del Tour de Francia. Recibió una penalización de 10", en la clasificación general. pic.twitter.com/aIP6dSBT7EJuly 21, 2022
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