How to get yourself Disqualified: A Beginners guide

Now that Vincenzo Nibali has joined the ranks of Marco Pantani and Danilo Di Luca who have been thrown off a race as a previous Grand Tour winner, I thought it would be nice to have a look back at all the novel ways people have been disqualified in the past. Note: I may take the concept of “disqualification” slightly liberally. So if you are one of those “fans” who wishes cycling had a Puritan ethic of morality where, prepare to be enraged/appeased.

Latch onto a car!

Vincenzo Nibali, 2015 Vuelta, Chris Froome, 2010 Giro, Francesco Reda, 2015 An Post Ras

The bane of many an armchair fan is the sticky bottle, where by riders who have succumbed to BAD LUCK (worth emphasising) are helped back into the field either with a conveniently placed aerodynamic foil (ie their team car) to shelter behind, or more blatantly, by taking a bottle that they just cant quite let go of. True, Vincenzo Nibali and Astana took this somewhat to the extreme, but then Nacer Bouhanni did the same thing and got a paltry fine. Luckily though, the hive mind that is the internet was foaming at the mouth for a go at Astana, so it was all ok.11222909_10153564112504592_4816744354477121490_n

Coming as it was a week after Nibali had pointed out Chris Froome had once been DQed for hanging onto a motorbike (Froome insists he had already withdrawn) at the 2010 Giro, the irony value was too much for the internet not to pounce on.

Throw your water bottle in the middle of a bunch sprint!

Tom Steels, 1997 Tour de France

Originally termed “irregular sprinting” but later upgraded to “violent behaviour towards others”, Tom Steels, who was then not the Tour de France stage winning machine he came to be (albeit Belgian national champion and a Ghent Whevelgem winner), became angry, for no particular reason aside from being blocked in, at Frederic Moncassin, and so, in the middle of the the sixth stage of the Tour de France sprint finish, decided the best way to express this was to hurl his bidon at the Frenchmen. Needless to say, this did not go down well, and Tom Bidon, as he was now known, was thrown off the race.

Everyone seems to forget that whilst Erik Zabel won the sprint, he too was disqualified for being a bit all over the place, with the stage win ending up with Jeroen Blijlevens.

Throw your water bottle at a passing motorbike!

Mario Cipollini, 2003 Ghent Whevelgem

Super Mario, with the antics he got up to, was always going to be thrown out of a race at some point, and he has, to my knowledge, been thrown out of at least two. The first was Ghent Whevelgem, where, after a crash, the frustrated World Champion was trying to make his way back to the leaders. Unfortunately, a motorbike drew his ire, and a bottle was launched, meaning Cipo was disqualified at the end of the race.

Punch a fellow rider in the neutral zone!
Mario Cipollini, 2000 Vuelta

There is no footage of Mario’s attack on Vitalico Seguros’ Francisco Cerezo, but there is images of the aftermath. Cipollini apparently punched the Cerezo to the ground before the start of the 5th stage of the Vuelta in 2000. The Vuelta organisers weren’t happy, but probably not as peeved as they were when, having invited Cipollini’s Domina Vacanze team to the race in 2003 on the provision Cipollini himself competed, he abandoned after the prologue, like a boss.

Headbutt someone in the face!

Mark Renshaw, 2010 Tour de France

Leading out Mark Cavendish to a then inevitable win at the 2010 Tour de France, Mark Renshaw got fed up of Julian Dean, who was leading out perennial 4th place finisher Tyler Farrar, and trying to push onto Renshaw’s line. Renshaw had a think, and decided to use his head. Literally. For some reason, the Tour decided this was violent contact and warranted disqualification from the entire race. Fellow Aussie Robbie McEwen was probably happy the rules weren’t that harsh in 2005, when he did pretty much the same thing.

Have a fight whilst on your bike!

Gianluca Brambilla and Ivan Rovny at the 2014 Vuelta a Espana

The Italian and Russian had fisticuffs, seemingly over the fact that Brambilla pushed Rovny’s behind in the break. Rovny reciprocated by grabbing Brambilla by the neck, and they took some weak swings at one another before being disqualified on the road as they went. But much comic effect was felt by all who observed.

Fail a “health test”!

Marco Pantani, 1999 Giro d’Italia

This was technically not a disqualification, but a withdrawal, but as it was an enforced one, it still counts basically. Pantani failed the UCI mandated “health checks” by recording a haematocrit of over 50%, with that limit supposedly set to protect riders health by stopping the rampant blood doping, but in reality it just gave them a limit to push their red blood cell count up to. Pantani was at 52%, and he and his team withdrew from the race, leaving the pink jersey, which Pantani had been defending, behind. The affair at Madonna di Campiglio is seen as the beginning of the end for Pantani’s career, and sadly, life.

Get caught using a condom!

Michel Pollentier, 1978 Tour de France

Having won the stage to Alpe d’Huez, Pollentier was required to take a drugs test. He and another rider were operating a system of tubes connected to a condom filled with what was supposedly clean urine, with the condom held under their armpit so that they could “squeeze one out.” Unfortunately, the other rider aroused the suspicions of the doctor supervising the tests, who, surprised at the incredible length and transparency of Pollentier’s anatomy, investigated and discovered the ruse. Pollentier was disqualified and the win went to Hennie Kuiper.

Going through a closed level crossing!
Leif Hoste, Peter Van Petegem, Vladimir Gusev, 2006 Paris Roubaix

When Hoste, Van Petegem and Gusev jumped a crossing to try in a vain attempt to catch leader and eventual winner Fabian Cancellara at Paris Roubaix, they were later disqualified for being very naughty. Tom Boonen, the world champion, Alessandro Ballan and Juan Antoni Flecha who were behind, all stopped, but still went through as the barriers were going up, which is a disqualification offence. Oddly, none of them were, and so Boonen was elevated to second. Evidently, this had nothing to do with trying to get the world champion on the podium. No. Nothing at all.

Spark a diplomatic incident by having your A-sample test positive (but not your B-sample)!
Eddy Merckx, 1969 Giro d’Italia

Having won four stages and seemingly about to win his second Giro with ease, Eddy Merckx was told he had tested positive for Reactivan. He denied it, and asked for a test the next day, stating the substance would still show up in this sample if he had taken it. It had mysteriously dissapeared. There are so many myths and legends about the “Secrets of Savonna” that it is nigh on impossible to build a legitimate narrative, but with the Belgian army flying in to escort their hero away and so on, it was at least more interesting then the standard doping tales.

Tell lies about your whereabouts!

Michael Rasmussen, 2007 Tour de France

Ok, so Rasmussen technically wasn’t disqualified, he was withdrawn by his team, but hey, close enough. The reason? Well, he sad he’d been in Mexico when he’d supposedly been spotted in Italy, although he has since made murmurings that this was due to conflicts with his wife rather than an attempt to evade the anti-doping authorities. He ended up admitting doping and missing doping tests as well, just for good measure.

Fail a dope test!
Too many to name

Fail a test during the Tour and you get kicked out. 2008 was an excellent example of this, with Manuel Beltran, Moises Duenas and Riccardo Ricco removed for their EPO CERA use. Tsk tsk.

Illegal overtaking!
Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish, Olympic Team Sprint 2012

When the UCI decided to enforce a rule that forbid riders from overtaking their lead out before the end of the lap, they chose not to tell the teams about it. Thus, they all did it, and so the British team were disqualified. Oddly, the Chinese team, who were in the same heat, did exactly the same thing, but were allowed to continue. But hey. We’re not bitter or anything. Not at all.

Interfering in a sprint after being lapped!

Jan Denuwelaere, Koppenberg Cross 2014

With teammate Wout Van Aert came to the finishing straight with Kannibal Sven Nys, Denuwelaere still had a lap to go. Unfortunately, he decided he would try and help his teammate, and rode to block Nys against the barriers as Van Aert opened the sprint. Van Aert subsequently won the race, which Nys had won nine times, leaving Nys to berate Denuwelaere, who received a DQ, a 300 Swiss Franc fine, and the hatred of those who saw him having denied the venerated Nys a chance to take a tenth title at the race as his punishment.

Excessive use of the Elbow!

Niki Terpstra, Eneco Tour 2014

On the final stage of the Eneco Tour, Niki Terpstra, the reigning Paris-Roubaix winner, who once won the combativity award at the Tour de France got pissed off at one another for reasons unknown, and so decided to express themselves by engaging in a shoulder barging competition. Terpstra finished to come 7th overall, only to be told that he had been disqualified for his antics, Wynants wasn’t for some reason, despite being just as aggressive.

Attacking a spectator!

Bart Wellens, Druivencross 2005

After being abused continually on every lap of the Druivencross in 2005, Bart Wellens had had enough, and so summoned his inner Bruce Lee to aim a Karate kick at his abuser as he passed him. Whilst the organisers sympathised with his plight, they determined that trying to kick a man in the head probably wasn’t quite the image Cyclocross wanted to cultivate, and so Wellens was disqualified from the race, although this only occured a number of days after Wellens had actually won the race, as whilst the commissaires had been rather aggravated, they had originally let him off. The UCI where not so chuffed however, and awarded the win to second placed Lars Boom.

Taking a lift in a team car!

Eduardo Sepúlveda, Tour de France 2015

The award for most comic disqualification goes to Bretagne Seche Environment rider Sepulveda. Breaking his chain on the steep climb to Mende, When his team car passed him and stopped 100m up the road, Sepulveda,who had been given a wheel by AG2r, decided he needed to get to it extra quick, so hitched a lift in the AG2r team car. Evidently, driving pat of the route isn’t allowed, and quite why AG2r agreed to it isn’t known, but hey. Sepulveda was disqualified from the stage.

And some things that won’t get you disqualified

Headbutting other riders?!


Hang on, haven’t we already done this one? Luckily for Robbie McEwen, who got featured in an advert for stage winner Tom Boonen’s (in green) Quick Step Innergetic team as a result of this (Innergetic make mattresses – their ad showed McEwen with his head on on O’Grady’s shoulder saying “tired” whilst Boonen said “rested”), the commisaires just relegated him to the back of the field, rather than throwing him off the race.

Causing a crash

Riders such as Roberto Ferrari, Mark Cavendish (above) and Paolo Bettini have all been accused, and fined for causing crashes in sprint finish, but never disqualified from the race (Bettini was simply moved to the back of the group, for instance). Despite being inherently more violent and damaging then limply punching someone, the fact it is usually classed as a “racing incident” means you’re unlikely to be DQed for this unless there is malicious intent.

Going through a, er, closed level crossing?

Haven’t we done this one as well? Nine years after the 2006 incident, history repeated itself when the peloton, rather than a small group, arrived at a closing level crossing. Rather than stop, riders such as Bradley Wiggins and eventual winner John Degenkolb, ducked the barriers as riders continued to trickle through ahead of the approaching TGV. Nobody was disqualified as in 2006, as supposedly it would simply have taken too much time to identify all the guilty riders.

Drafting cars in the final kilometre

Poor Juan Antonio Flecha, then of Fassa Bortolo, had made his audacious solo break to win the 2005 ediiton of Ghent Whevelgem, and looked certain to win. After all, he “kept the speed at 55 km/h and was clear until three hundred metres to go. I was very surprised to be caught.” And caught he was by Lotto’s Nico Mattan, who had some controversial help from official veichles and motor bikes, which he could clearly be seen drafting as just before catching Flecha in the dying moments of the race. Although it takes two to tango, the result was allowed to stand despite the (Shimano neutral servive) cars being fined 400 Swiss Francs. Flecha was beaten to being the first Spanish winner of the race by Oscar Freire, but now makes his living wearing a perma-smile on Eurosport. Mattan retired at the end of 2007 with this controversial incident his biggest win.

Having a fight at the end of a stage


Back when Rui Costa was just “Not the footballer Rui Costa”, rather than “Former World Champion and Tour de France stage winner Rui Costa”, and Carlos Barredo was, er not the Carlos Barredo who had been banned for biological passport violations, the two gained their fame by attacking one another at the end of the sixth stage of the 2010 Tour de France. Barredo was apparently annoyed that Costa had touched his handlebars at the end the race, and yet Costa was so peeved that he took out his front wheel and proceeded to beat Barredo over the head with it. Whilst they degenerated into a fist fight before being pulled apart, they were only given a 300 Euro fine for their spat. Clearly the lesson is, if you’re going to have one, do it after the race, not during.

Hitting “fans”

No one’s really complaining about this one to be honest. Hitting the morons who thing running alongside riders on climbs should be made obligatory.

Throwing “fans” sunglasses away


Woet Poels became so annoyed at the fans behaviour on the Monte Zoncolan, the penultimate stage of the 2014 Giro, that he tore the sunglasses from the face of one interloper and tossed them casually into the woods. Whilst he was made to give an apology, the behaviour of the Tifosi excused him from his actions

Making derogatory gestures

Mark Cavendish hadn’t had the best of seasons at the beginning of 2010, as illness and subsequent poor form made his win record look rather bare. Annoyed at this critics, he celebrated this win at the Tour of Romandie by giving a two fingered salute to them. He then claimed he was referencing the Battle of Agincourt, saying “The two-fingered salute comes from Agincourt, when they caught the archers and cut their two fingers off. It was intended to say: you can attack me, but I’ve still got my fingers. That’s what I meant, anyway.” Unfortunately his team didn’t believe him, or approve of the celebration, and pulled him from the race. He wouldn’t have been DQed mind.

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