Officials at the Abu Dhabi Tour have disqualified Bora-Argon 18 rider Paul Voss from the race, and he has been sent directly home, following an altercation with UnitedHealthcare’s Federico Zurlo (UnitedHealthcare) during the intermediate sprint in stage 2 on Friday. Despite Voss' complaint that Zurlo 'intentionally' crossed his sprint line, the Italian was not reprimanded and he remains in ninth place overall.
Voss was leading the event's sprint classification after being involved in previous day's stage 1 breakaway and winning the second intermediate sprint. He was tied on points with William Clarke (Drapac) and Francisco Mancebo (Skydive Dubai) with 8 points, while Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthcare) was fourth with four points.
Voss and Bazzana were involved in the stage 2 breakaway that also included Zurlo, Soufiane Haddi (Skydive Dubai), Belkov (Katusha) and Daniel Patten (Wiggins).
Approaching the intermediate sprint during the day's 129km stage from Yas Marina to Marina Island, Zurlo led out the sprint for his teammate Bazzana, however, he swung off into Voss' line, which caused Voss to ride into the curb and nearly crash. Bazzana won the sprint and took the lead of that classification.
According to Bora-Argon 18 director Ralph Denk, there was a "scuffle" between the Voss and Zurlo following the intermediate sprint, which ultimately resulted in Voss being disqualified from the race.
"Sprints are always competitive - as the intermediate sprint today makes no exception. Unfortunately, a short scuffle occurred afterwards. Of course, this shouldn’t happen. I just talked with two guys again and for them the issue was settled in the race already. Therefore both were surprised that the jury took this decision. But we have to accept it."
At this time it is unclear what exactly happened in the "scuffle" that caused Voss to be disqualified, however, he did make an apology saying, "For the second time in a row I was the rider who initiated the group of the day. I wanted to defend the sprint jersey, which I am very proud of, and I was very motivated to race.
"At the first intermediate sprint, I was in a good position. Zurlo of United Healthcare launched the sprint for his teammate, then he crossed intentionally my sprint line. I had to give way and brake hard in order not to ride in the curb and crash.
"Of course, I was upset. I am very sorry that the adrenaline was a little high with me afterwards and I apologise to Federico Zurlo for my behavior."
Cyclingnews spoke with UnitedHealthcare director Roberto Damiani, who explained that "Zurlo went on that side of the road and closed out Voss, but Voss tried to go where there wasn't much room."
He also noted that following the intermediate sprint Voss reacted by punching Zurlo in the ribs. "Voss was angry and we can understand that but he then punched Zurlo in the ribs. It was too strong of a reaction. The jury (official) was right there, saw it and immediately DQ'd him. I think it was too severe."
Damiani said that he asked the officials not the disqualify Voss but they went ahead with the punishment. "Voss made a mistake to react like that but he didn't deserve it [to be disqualified]."
The below video shows the intermediate sprint but it does not show the altercation that followed.
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