Tom Pidcock was a surprise presence in the bunch sprint on the opening stage of the Volta ao Algarve, not that the results will show it. Having crossed the line in fifth place, the Ineos Grenadiers rider was later relegated to 135th for pushing another rider.
The communiqué from the race jury pointed to an ‘irregular sprint’ specifying that Pidcock had been seen ‘pushing another rider’, most likely Luís Mendonça (Glassdrive-Q8-Anicolor).
Pidcock was relegated to last place in the group he was in, which was nearly a full peloton. He was also fined CHF 200 and given a 25% penalty in the points classification.
The sanction would appear to relate to Pidcock lifting his arm and making contact with the Glassdrive rider in the final kilometre.
Pidcock, who was weaving his way up through the bunch, found the rider in front coming into his line and lifted his left hand to give him a nudge with 200 metres to go. It wasn’t a strong shove, and was arguably a case of Pidcock himself trying to avoid any more serious impact as he looked to squeeze through a gap. The rider in question did not crash but was bumped out to the left, close to the barriers.
Taking a hand off the bars in a sprint is frowned upon by race officials, especially when it involves touching another rider. Aggressive shoves are usually greeted with outright disqualification but the race jury still felt Pidcock’s move was dangerous enough to warrant relegation.
Pidcock went on to bump shoulders with Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Timo Kleich in the final 100 metres, himself bouncing off to the left before crossing the line in fifth place.
Punishment aside, it was a strong start to the season for the 23-year-old, who skipped this year’s cyclo-cross World Championships to prepare for the road campaign. He remains on the same time overall as the rest of the bunch and could therefore battle for the overall Volta ao Algarve title as one of many Ineos cards that include Thymen Arensman, Dani Martinez, and Filippo Ganna.
The race heads for a first summit finish on the Alto de Foia on stage 2 before another at Malhao on stage 4 and a decisive final-day time trial on Sunday.