Vincenzo Nibali's Astana squad have apologised after the 2010 winner and 2014 Tour de France champion was expelled from the Vuelta a Espana for being towed by a team car.
Nibali, who was looking to respond from his Tour defence finishing in a disappointing fourth at the Tour of Spain, had crashed on Sunday's second stage and in trying to get back to the main peloton gained illegal assistance.
Astana wrote on their website, astanaproteam.kz: "Nibali called for a replacement water bottle and was filmed by television cameras in a race helicopter as Astana Pro Team director sportif Alexander Sheffer towed him for more than five seconds to rejoin the chasing group with around 20km to the finish. Nibali rejoined the main peloton with 10km to go.
"For this illegal assistance, race jury officials took the unusual and severe step to expel Nibali and Sheffer from the Vuelta a Espana and to remove the team's second vehicle from competition for two days.
"Astana Pro Team is sorry for the error, and apologises to the peloton and race organisers for the harm these televised images caused to professional cycling."