Penalty riles Cycling Festival race leader

Ed Jackson |

General classification leader James Whelan has slammed a decision to penalise him over a pacing issue at the Festival of Cycling race.

Whelan holds a 27-second overall lead after Friday’s second stage of the three-day race in South Australia.

That lead isn’t the imperious one he held after his stage-one triumph on Thursday, having received an overnight one-minute penalty.

After Friday’s 112.9km stage from Mount Lofty to Woodside, Whelan was still fuming about the ruling by commissaires that he’d received “motor pacing” from Team Bridgelane’s team car for more than two kilometres in Thursday’s stage.

The decision was final despite Whelan and his team arguing he’d suffered a mechanical failure in the neutral zone of the opening stage which would normally have seen the race’s proper start delayed until he returned to the bunch.

“It’s super disappointing. We have no right to appeal,” the 25-year-old said.

“It’s disappointing for me personally, for the team, our sponsors and for the race itself.

“Worked pretty hard to get a minute and a half up the road and just for a commissaire to influence a race like that under these circumstances, it’s ridiculous. 

“But there’s nothing I can do and I’ve just got to focus on the bike race.”

Blake Quick won Friday’s stage ahead of Jensen Plowright and Cameron Scott.

It continues a fine start to the year for 21-year-old Quick, who won both stages of the Bay Crits in Geelong before claiming the Australian under-23 road title and the standalone criterium at the Festival of Cycling earlier this week.

The domestic event is replacing the Tour Down Under for a second year because of international travel restrictions and doesn’t carry World Tour status.

Despite his disappointment, Whelan is determined to maintain his lead to secure the race win when the three-day event wraps up on Saturday with the traditional summit finish atop Willunga Hill.

“Negative motivation is not a problem for me,” he said.

“Happy days, maybe it’ll actually give me a bigger gap, we’ll see.”