James Piccoli's day went from bad to worse Tuesday at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. After losing the yellow jersey by six seconds during stage 1, he was then docked 20 seconds for drafting behind his team car after suffering a puncture just before the start of the final finishing circuit.
The Elevate-KHS rider started the day in yellow after winning the opening prologue time trial at Snowbird Resort on Monday. His team then rode the front all day on stage 1, keeping the breakaway in check, but things went awry when the race leader punctured, burned up his teammates trying to get back to the field and then was unable to cover attacks from new race leader Lawson Craddock (EF Education First) in the final 5km.
Piccoli finished the stage in the main bunch, six seconds behind the Craddock group, getting knocked from first to second in the initial results. When the UCI commissaires' communique came out, however, he had been docked the time and slipped to 13th overall, 26 seconds behind Craddock.
Elevate-KHS manager Paul Abrams told Cyclingnews Tuesday evening that the team was "highly disappointed" in the commissaires' decision.
"James will use this as fuel," Abrams said. "We changed his bike, then got him to the back of the convoy. He was behind our car for 10 seconds, and then you never saw us again."
Although such instances are commonplace in cycling, Abrams and the Elevate-KHS car had the misfortunate to be going through the stage's start/finish area in North Logan City when Piccoli was following the car's bumper.
"This is very standard stuff," Abrams said. "There was nothing out of the ordinary about this. It's disappointing, but James has a great attitude about it. The team and James are not going to let this be a distraction."
Abrams said that although the time penalty was not ideal for a rider hoping to win the race overall, he said there's a lot of racing left and the team will simply move forward.
"But it does seem as though there are different rules for different people," Abrams added.
Indeed, earlier this year at the Tour of California, race leader Tejay van Garderen crashed while in the yellow jersey with about 7km to go, well outside the 3km line where such mishaps are not counted against the rider's overall time. In that case, the race jury ruled that van Garderen, who spent considerable time behind the EF Education First team car while chasing back, was slowed by a second crash, although that crash also occurred outside the 3km line.
Nevertheless, the UCI jury decided to give van Garderen the same time as the field, and therefore preserve his race lead.
There was obviously no such consideration for Piccoli and his general classification standing.
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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