The race jury has disqualified Lotta Henttala for reportedly holding onto the team car during stage 6 at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift into Blagnac. AG Insurance-Soudal-QuickStep’s director sportif Servais Knaven, who was driving the team vehicle at the time, has also reportedly been excluded from the race.
Henttala came into the Tour de France Femmes as one the favourites for the sprint stages, while her teammate Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is currently second overall behind Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx).
The sixth stage at the Tour de France Femmes, 122.1km from Albi to Blagnac, was marked as one for the sprinters.
Henttala was distanced from the peloton at the 71km-to-go mark on the Côte de Puycelsi, a 1.9km climb with an average gradient of 6%, and continued to lose time over the Côte du Clos Pourtié, a 2.8km climb at 4.8% at 64km to go.
It has been reported on FranceTV that race officials disqualified Henttala for hanging onto the team car, later confirmed by the organisers of the Tour de France Femmes.
“Lotta Henttala (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step) was excluded from the race,” the organisers confirmed on the official event website and social media.
On Saturday morning, the team issued a statement offering an explanation for the incident. “During stage 6 of the Tour de France Femmes, Lotta Hentalla was suffering with illness and fatigue, and dropped from the main peloton,” read the statement, shared on Twitter. “It was decided that our second car, driven by DS Servais Knaven would drop back to support her through the stage.”
“During the race, a bidon was passed to Lotta, which both she and Servais held on to for around 10 seconds, giving Lotta as small moment of respite. It is an incident that both regret and understand it is outside the spirit of the race.”
The team, however, came out strongly against the race jury’s decision to disqualify the rider and directeur sportif.
“AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step, Servais and Lotta condemn suggestions that Lotta was allowed to hold on to the car for an extended period of time – a charge laid to them by the race jury, leading to disqualification from the race of both Lotta and Servais from the race.”
“We have expressed our disappointment to the race commissioners, pointing out the injustice of their actions and the damage caused to reputation of Lotta, Servais and the AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step team.”
The disqualification was just hours after the UCI announced that SD Worx team manager Danny Stam was excluded from the Tour de France ahead of stage 6.
In this incident, the UCI cited the dangerous nature of Stam’s driving when overtaking other cars and riders during stage 5 while bringing Demi Vollering back to the field following a flat tire, for which she received a 20-second time penalty.