Keen eyes will have noticed that it was Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) in the blue jersey of mountains classification leader on the second morning of the Giro d’Italia, not Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) who mounted the podium after the stage 1 individual time trial.
The first KOM points of the race were awarded on the last 2.8km of the 19.6km TT, a modest climb that averaged 2.4% (including a few-hundred metres downhill), with the fastest rider up that section to take the maglia azzurra.
McNulty was briefly in the hot seat during the TT having apparently rocketed up the final ramp, and though Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) would ultimately smash the competition, the American was told to stick around the finish area to accept the jersey on the podium.
However, by the start of the first road stage on Sunday morning, McNulty was paid a visit by the race organisation and ‘stripped’ of his dashing new kit, the mountains leadership reallocated to the man who was actually fastest.
The Giro organisers issued a statement explaining what had happened as stage 2 got underway.
“Due to a digital error on the bib number, yesterday the blue jersey was erroneously awarded to Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates). Following a second check, the blue jersey was assigned to Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), the rider who set the fastest time from the second time to the finish.”
While it’s great news for the Brit – though he likely won’t have been targeting this particular jersey, the means of capture is a tantalising sign of things to come – it’s perhaps more than a little embarrassing for the race, not to mention new timing sponsor Tudor which took over from Tissot for this year’s Giro.
After closer inspection of McNulty’s time splits, this morning CyclingNews reported the stark inaccuracy that delivered the UAE rider, who finished eighth on the stage, into the KOM lead and onto the podium in Ortona. His 12-second advantage over the 2.8km seems possible if not very likely.
The huge flapping red flag, though, comes when you look at the 7km pan-flat middle section of the course which has McNulty fastest by 13 seconds to Evenepoel (15s to former world ITT champion and Hour Record holder Filippo Ganna), a feat that would have required a whopping speed of 61.139km/h. And that after placing 103rd for the opening 9.8km.
By looking at both on-screen graphics and now-tenuous reported results, CyclingNews concluded that McNulty’s time up the climb must have been half a minute slower than that which awarded him the maximum three points, giving him only a top-30 ranking on that segment. And ultimately, although his complete time between start and finish is (probably) accurate, the balance of his effort across all intermediate time checks was bizarrely miscalculated.
“It was quite surprising to me, honestly,” McNulty admitted after pulling on a box-fresh – borrowed – blue jersey. “They said after I was out of the hotseat that I had to wait around for the KOM jersey, so I was surprised but it’s nice to have a jersey.
“I knew I had to pace well and go hard on the climb but I didn’t expect to be the fastest. It’s funny.”
With the maglia azzurra transferring to its rightful owner, McNulty was handed the white jersey of best young rider to wear instead. Evenepoel is, of course, the outright leader in that classification (as well as overall and points, the maglia ciclamino on Ganna’s broad shoulders), while second-place João Almeida is allowed to show off his Portuguese flag-splashed team kit over a secondhand jersey, as specified in UCI regulation 2.6.018:
“…the organiser may require another rider next on the relevant classification to wear a jersey which is not being worn by the leader of that classification. However, if this rider must wear his world or national champion’s jersey … he shall wear that jersey.”
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