Today's stage of the Vuelta a Espana will be remembered for a great ride from Chaves and Dumoulin in a great preview of the race to come - or so we thought. Soon after the stage finished, this video appeared on the internet.
Yes, that's Vincenzo Nibali attacking his group, going behind his team car, and shooting off ahead. He was in this position because of the crash with under 30 kilometres to go, and was in a hurry to get back to the peloton. There has been much outrage about this, and the Vuelta jury convened. While Astana accepted the wrongness of their actions, and appealed for the most severe time penalty to be applied, the jury decided that it had no option but to disqualify him from the Vuelta a Espana. His directeur sportif, Alexander Schefer has also been sent home. The rider has been fined a rather silly 200 Swiss Francs.
Most seem to have positively greeted the disqualification, saying that it was the right thing, and that Nibali's cheating was obvious.
Race jury president Bruno Valcic said: "We saw the videos, we waited to see them on Europort.We watched the film together with Astana director, Stefano Zanini. It was a really tough decision, but we had no choice but to give the penalty to the rider."
Astana were less happy. "It happens in the Tour, I’ve seen it 1000 times. Try to find me an honest person in the peloton. Any sports director would have done the same thing to save their leader", said Giuseppe Martinelli.
Nibali apologised on Facebook: "I want to publicly apologise for what happened, especially for the people who feel they are angry or ashamed of me. There are lots of episodes like this in cycling and especially so after a crash. I thought I'd get a fine and time penalty that would take me out of the overall classification. I'd have even accepted a 10-minute penalty. After all, I won't be the first or last to do this kind of thing."
Astana also made a statement: "Nibali called for a replacement water bottle and was filmed by television cameras in a race helicopter as Astana Pro Team Director Sportif Alexander Sheffer towed him for more than five seconds to rejoin the chasing group with around 20km to the finish. Nibali rejoined the main peloton with 10km to go. For this illegal assistance, race jury officials took the unusual and severe step to expel Nibali and Sheffer from the Vuelta a España and to remove the team's second vehicle from competition for two days - Astana Pro Team is sorry for the error, and apologizes to the peloton and race organizers for the harm these televised images caused to professional cycling"
More, hopefully including some more statements, to follow.