Chaos, conspiracy theories, and confusion over the three-kilometer rule flipped the Vuelta a España on its head, then unflipped it a couple of minutes later.
We now have some readability: Remco Evenepoel stays within the lead of the Spanish Grand Tour, holding onto a 1’26” benefit over Primož Roglič because the race dives into its troublesome ultimate week. Established order, basically, regardless of a end that was something however odd. Roglič gained eight seconds and misplaced fairly a little bit of blood and pores and skin. Evenepoel rolled in properly again with the arrogance of a rider whose difficulty got here inside the ultimate three kilometers, because the Web questioned aloud why his flat tire regarded prefer it had a lot air in it.
That ultimate consequence wasn’t at all times clear. Within the fast aftermath of the stage, confusion over the implementation of the three-kilometer rule, which permits a rider who suffers a mechanical or crash within the ultimate three kilometers of a non-mountain stage to get the identical time as their group, in addition to the three-second rule, which extends the definition of “hole” on dash phases, briefly had Roglič within the lead of the race.
The post-stage confusion on Tuesday stemmed from the stage’s uphill-but-not-mountainous end, gained by Mads Pedersen however outlined by a late cost from Roglič. Did the stage qualify as a dash stage? Did the three-kilometer rule apply?
Type of, and sure.
There are two varieties of phases particularly known as out within the Vuelta’s official roadbook. The primary is “Levels with high-altitude finales,” and these phases don’t have any three kilometer rule. Time is time on these phases, no mulligans. The rule is essentially about security, and the concept is that for those who crash within the finale of a mountain stage, that’s most likely your personal fault. The checklist of mountain phases for this Vuelta consists of phases 6, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18, and 20. All different phases are run with the three-kilometer rule in place. In order that would come with Tuesday’s stage 16.
A second checklist marks out the “Levels with anticipated mass dash arrivals,” phases 2, 3, 7, 11, 13, and 21. Stage 16 isn’t on this checklist, both, as a result of the end was too onerous to be a assured bunch dash.
Levels on this second checklist are run below the auspices of not solely the three-kilometer rule, but additionally the three-second rule. The three-second rule will increase the quantity of area between teams that formally counts as a “hole” from one second to 3 seconds. That signifies that a two-second hole in the midst of the peloton isn’t any concern; the second half of the peloton nonetheless will get the identical time as the primary half.
Levels not on both checklist qualify for the three-kilometer rule, however don’t qualify for the three-second rule. Stage 16 is a kind of phases.
The Remco Flat
Including to all this confusion was a proliferation of mild-to-moderate conspiracy theorizing surrounding Evenepoel’s mechanical. That mechanical occurred close to the bottom of the ultimate climb, as Roglič was firing off the entrance, inside the ultimate three kilometers.
At 2.5 kilometers to go, Evenepoel suffered what he later mentioned was a flat rear tire. Comfortably inside the ultimate three kilometers, he misplaced solely eight seconds to Roglič within the total, dropping his lead from 1’34” to 1’26”. With out the three-kilometer rule in place, he would have misplaced practically three minutes and the lead of the race. This latter state of affairs is what the outcomes confirmed within the minutes after the end.
Solely, as Adam Blythe and Dan Lloyd fastidiously identified on the GCN post-race present, it actually regarded like Evenepoel’s tire nonetheless had loads of air in it.
With out squeezing the rear tire myself, speculating concerning the inflation of a tire that takes up a number of pixels on a TV display screen feels woefully overconfident. I’m detest to offer this one an excessive amount of *ahem* air. However it’s value noting a number of issues.
First, Evenepoel is on a tubeless tire setup with sealant. Which means within the occasion of a puncture his tire is more likely to go barely flat, however not totally flat, because the sealant takes a second to fill the opening but it surely does ultimately achieve this. Evenepoel might have been rolling round on 30 psi (~2 bar), for instance. That’s sufficient to trip on, and can look largely pumped up from afar, however will really feel harmful in corners. If I have been him, I’d trip a tire with that kind of strain below the three-kilometer banner after which promptly pull over and put my hand up, a lot as he did do.
Evenepoel even appeared to confess this was the case. “I used to be somewhat bit scared within the final 4-5km,” he mentioned. “I wished to maneuver up on the steep bump however my rear wheel simply went off so I felt like I had a flat tire.”
Second, he might have been working tire liners, which might assist even a completely flat tire look a bit plumper than normal. Our tech workforce doesn’t consider Fast-Step AlphaVinyl runs liners for Grand Excursions, however we haven’t checked in on the workforce’s setup in a few months.
So was it an actual flat? Or did Evenepoel simply not really feel like charging up the ultimate 2.5 kilometers as quick as he might? No thought, however the tubeless/sealant/half-flat state of affairs in all fairness seemingly.