World cycling has attempted to clarify the controversial disqualification of Nils Eekhoff, the Dutch rider who was left in tears after he thought he had won the U23 world road race title on Friday.
Eekhoff crashed early in the race in Yorkshire, dislocating his shoulder. Footage showed him gingerly returning to his saddle before drafting behind his team car to return to the peloton, a rule which is inconsistently enforced across the top of the sport where leeway is generally given to riders who have crashed.
The sport’s governing body, the UCI, came in for criticism from several quarters, including current professional riders. “If this is the new standard going forward then every puncture or crash will spell a DSQ or us missing the time limit,” tweeted New Zealander George Bennett. “Some people take the piss with the cars in the convoy at times but coming back from a crash when the jury haven’t made barrage means they are fair game in my book.”
However, the UCI released further video on Saturday to clarify the reason for Eekhoff disqualification, which revealed a segment of two minutes in which the 21-year-old used his team car to make significant time gain.
“The rider was disqualified for sheltering behind a vehicle for over two minutes,” said the UCI in a statement. “The maximum sanction was considered appropriated due to the time spent sheltering.”
On Friday night Eekhoff released his own statement. “WORLD CHAMPION! That feeling… But it only lasted for 15 minutes,” he wrote. “I’m proud [of] my performance… Although I suffered serious pain from a dislocated shoulder, the crash early in the race never stopped me from fighting for my ultimate goal. To hear they DQ me, was/is a big shock to me. I understand the rules of cycling, but truly think this decision is inappropriate. What means consistency to the UCI is a question I want to find out. But for now; I will never ever forget these best 15 minutes of my life… I’ll be back!”
The Italian Samuele Battistella was promoted to the gold medal. Yorkshire’s Tom Pidcock, who finished fourth, was upgraded to bronze.