• Movistar were controversial winners of the Stage 2 teams time trial. (Getty)Source: Getty
Jose Joaquin Rojas was stripped of the lead in the Volta a Catalunya after he was penalised for giving an illegal push to his Movistar team mates during their winning team time trial ride.
By
Cycling Central

Source:
Reuters
22 Mar 2017 - 7:51 AM  UPDATED 22 Mar 2017 - 8:55 AM

Movistar's Alejandro Valverde now leads the overall standings after two stages, ahead of team-mates Ruben Fernandez and Imanol Erviti. 

“It was a very tough time trial," Valverde said without referencing the controversy. "We knew it would be hard because we had ridden it five times during the last few days.

"It was a technical one, and knowing the course well ended up being key. We feared a bit the rain, because it would have made for a dangerous course, but we were lucky in the end and we got through it safe.

"We must go day-by-day, yet we put a very important gap on strong rivals today. It will be very difficult tomorrow, and I'm worried about bad weather again. Let's hope we can stay dry all week.

"My legs have been feeling good over the last few days, despite not having raced anything since Andalucía, so I hope I can keep the jersey. Obviously, though, having Contador or Froome contesting it will make for a difficult defense."

Movistar was not considered a favourite to win the 41.3km stage but beat powerhouse BMC by a slender two seconds while putting 46 seconds into Chris Froome's Sky team. 

Television pictures showed Movistar's struggling Rojas, who was in line to take the overall lead in the race, pushing team-mates into the gaps ahead of him.

Rules state that under such circumstances each member of the team should have one minute added to their time, but instead commissaires penalised the offending riders while keeping Movistar as winners of the stage.

"We have seen the pictures on the TV and they show clearly that Rojas pushes the other riders, which is forbidden during a race," UCI commissaries president Ernesto Maggioni told reporters.

"Every time he pushes, he gets a minute's penalty and a fine.

"Rojas was pushing. He was the last in the line and his team-mates are dropping back and he pushes them to take his place in the line because he was on the edge. That is forbidden."

Nelson Oliveira was also given a one-minute punishment and Andrei Amador a two-minute penalty. Rojas had already enjoyed podium celebrations and television interviews before the race judges ruled on the protest.

"When we saw that Rojas pushed his teammates forward on multiple occasions, which is a violation of UCI rules, we lodged a complaint with Trek-Segafredo, BMC sports director Jackson Stewart said. "The outcome is disappointing as we felt we were the strongest on the day and we played by the rules."

For Team Sky, third place keeps Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa in contention for the general classification, but with work to do.

"This was not the stage we had been planning," Froome said.

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) was a big casualty of the pace set by the frontrunners, finishing one minute 15 seconds behind Valverde.

"The truth is I am content, we gave everything," Contador said. "We were quite organised and I think we had a good time trial.

"We did finish far behind our direct rivals. One minute 15 seconds behind Valverde is a lot of time."

Valverde now looks set to win the race as it enters the Pyrenees with a 188.3km stage from Mataro to La Molina featuring three ascents.