Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has blamed Caleb Ewan for causing the crash that began the chain of events that saw Nibali get a blatant tow from his team car = a decision that saw him expelled from the race.
“The crash was Caleb Ewan’s fault,” Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “He made a crazy, bad move. Go and watch that clip too, and you’ll understand why riders got injured. But he’ll stay in the race. I was looking for him while I was waiting for my replacement bike, but fortunately for him he had already set off again. I had something to say to him.”
The Orica-GREENEDGE rider has a different story: he insists he was at the back of the bunch when the crash happened. The helicopter footage of the crash seems to corroborate Ewan's version of events.
“I was at the back of the bunch. All I saw were the riders crashing in front of me and I don’t know what happened at the front or who it was who caused the crash,” Ewan said to reporters at the beginning of Stage 3.
“It’s not very nice. If he’s going to say something, he should get the story straight before he says it because it’s unfair on me. I think a lot of people will read that and think that I caused the crash but like I said, I was at the back of the bunch, so I had nothing to do with the crash. It’s not very nice,” Ewan said.
Nibali does have form for incorrectly identifying the culprit in crashes. In this year's Tour de France, he incorrectly blamed Chris Froome for an incident on Stage 6, which ultimately saw the Team Sky rider confront Nibali in the Astana bus and wring an apology from the Italian.
Nibali also lashed out at the race jury over the incident, saying that he should not have been expelled from the race altogether.
“What happened in the Vuelta happens in every race. This does not mean that it is not wrong and that I shouldn’t go unpunished. Just that the punishment is too severe," Nibali said on his Facebook page.
“I thought I’d get a hefty fine and kicked down the classification. I would’ve accepted a penalty of 10 minutes! After all, I’m not the first or the last in this type of story.”
He also questioned the Astana team's decision to immediately favour Aru once the crash took place.
"I was abandoned. And yet I feel good, my legs feel good. I just had to pass the first week without any problems. Instead, I’m going home without having demonstrated anything."
Not a sticky bottle
While many riders have chosen to stay quiet on the decision, overall classification hopeful Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) said it was a 'a flagrant rule violation'.
'This wasn’t a sticky bottle, this was holding on to the car,' van Garderen said to VeloNews. 'When you take a bottle, you can hold on for a second to catch your breath to put the bottle in your back pocket or in your bike cage, but to have the car take you from your group to another, that’s wrong.'