UAE Team Emirates spoke with the race judges after the Tour of Flanders, suspecting possible misconduct in the sprint after Tadej Pogačar missed out on the podium.
Pogačar crossed the line in fourth place after finding himself boxed in as he sprinted against Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and suddenly Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) and Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) who joined from behind in the final 300 metres.
The Tour de France champion raised his arms as he crossed the line in apparent remonstration. Beyond the line he continued to gesticulate, clearly unhappy.
Pogačar did not initially stop to speak to the media but later spoke from the steps of his team bus and diplomatically played down any sense of controversy.
However, at the same time, UAE director Fabio Baldato made his way – on Pogačar’s bike – from the bus to the finish area. He confirmed to Cycling News that he had been in talks with the race jury.
Baldato suggested the movement of Van Baarle and Madouas was “on the limit” of what’s acceptable but the matter did not go any further.
“I didn’t see the sprint from the car, so I wanted to be sure. The race commissaires took me to the video room and I watched the sprint,” Baldato told Cycling News.
“The commissaires had the same idea as I did, that it was close. I understand that the guys in front had almost come to a stop and they came up fast.
“For them it was a regular sprint, so I can’t complain. I just wanted to be sure. It was on the limit but that’s racing.”
Baldato confirmed that Pogačar had spoken to him about the incident and that it was decided he’d go to investigate.
“[He said] you saw? I say ‘no I didn’t see, but I’m going to see’. It’s like he told me go to check, let’s see, but this is normal. It’s not the first time I go to the jury to check a sprint.
“If you see Tadej go like this [wave his arms], that’s the situation. It’s all ok but I wanted to be sure, I wanted to see because I didn’t see it in the car. That’s the reason I went to the commissaires. That’s also part of my job.”