The Vuelta a Espana race jury docked Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 20 seconds for drafting behind a team car as the world champion fought his way back from a mechanical during Saturday's stage 8 to Almadén. Sagan eventually regained the bunch and finished second to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) over the final uphill sprint.
Sagan suffered a mechanicl with about 50km remaining in the 195.5km stage that looked on paper at least to be well-suited to the Slovakian fast man's skills. Sagan has yet to score a win since his near-disastrous crash at the Tour de France, and the team had this flat stage with its rising finish marked up for him as part of his comeback to form.
Things started out to script for the stage, which came one day before Sunday's first big mountain test. A three-rider move went up the road almost immediately with Thiago Machado (Katusha-Alpecin), Jorge Cubero (Burgos-BH) and Hector Saez (Euskadi-Murias). The trio posed little threat to the GC or the sprint teams' plans, however, and their gap was allowed to go up to a minute while Bora, Quick-Step Floors, Trek-Segafredo and Cofidis took turns on the front.
The rather uneventful stage took a turn for Sagan with just over an hour to race when he was forced to stop. As riders do, Sagan spent some time in the caravan as he made his way back to the tip of the racing, lingering behind the LottoNL-Jumbo car and others.
His time in the slipstreams apparently caught the eye of race officials, who decided Sagan had at some point crossed the line from grey area to penalty.
The 20-second GC slap will mean little to Sagan, as he is already nearly 45 minutes behind race leader Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) and runner-up Valverde. His drop from 93rd place to 99th overall won't concern Sagan as much as he'll rue the missed opportunity to snag one of the few sprint stages remaining in this year's Vuelta.
"We managed to keep a small break, the guys then pulled hard to bring it back and I was in a good spot for the sprint," Sagan said in a statement released by the team. "I gave my all in the hard, final metres but it wasn't enough to win. Still, I feel my form is improving each and every day."