Tao Geoghegan Hart crossed the finish line in second place on stage 2 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana but was later relegated to ninth, losing valuable bonus seconds.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider was punished for an ‘irregular’ sprint by the race jury, who deemed that he deviated from his line and obstructed Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious).
The pair were both sprinting in the wake of stage winner Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), with Geoghegan Hart starting out on the right-hand side of the narrow home straight and drifting left as Bilbao looked to hit out and pass him.
The pair touched shoulders by the barriers, adjusting slightly to avoid a crash before crossing the line side-by-side.
Geoghegan Hart was initially awarded second place, but the race jury reviewed the footage and took the familiar action of relegation, putting the Briton to the back of the nine-man group that contested the finish.
Although he was given the same finishing time, he had to forfeit the six bonus seconds given to the second-place finisher. Bilbao, meanwhile, was bumped up from third place to second, his bonuses rising from four to six seconds.
The decision could have an impact on the overall classification in the event of a close battle on the weekend’s final stages. Geoghegan Hart falls from second overall at four seconds to eighth at 10 seconds, while Bilbao – who also claimed a bonus second at the intermediate sprint – now sits at three seconds behind Ciccone.
“I couldn’t quite get onto the wheel, so Ciccone had already taken a few metres, and there was so little space it wasn’t possible to get back to him,” Bilbao said without commenting on Geoghegan Hart. “I know the time bonuses will be important, so in the last few metres, I tried everything to finish second.”
Bilbao was described as “frustrated” by his team, with director Franco Pellizotti highlighting a “slight miscommunication,” possibly between Bilbao and co-leader Mikel Landa, whose attack drew Ciccone out. Landa placed fourth after the revision of the results, giving the team two cards to play.
Ineos also have two cards to play, but Geoghegan Hart was stronger than Carlos Rodriguez on the short final climb, shutting down a dangerous attack from Brandon McNulty and Thomas Gloag before accelerating away in the scramble for the line. The 2020 Giro d’Italia champion and the Spanish champion are both 10 seconds down on Ciccone.
🔴¡VICTORIA para Giulio Ciccone en el Alto de Pinos! #VCV2023…
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