As a general rule of thumb, if you’re going to attend a long-distance cycling event while in Europe, one rule you should probably follow is this: Don’t knock one of the competitors off his bike.
These axioms were on full display Saturday, as the penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia saw a scuffle between Colombian cyclist Miguel Angel Lopez and a spectator.
Who says cyclists 🚴🏽♂️ aren’t still on roids? 💉 Props to Miguel Angel Lopez for laying down some bike race justice on this idiot fan who got onto the course at the #GiroDeItalia2019 pic.twitter.com/HF2vMMJHtl
— MyBookie Sportsbook (@betmybookie) June 1, 2019
It seems that one of the fans, running along the edge of the narrow road, tripped over another spectator and crashed into Lopez’s bike, sending both tumbling.
Lopez, furious, stood over the now-seated fan and gave him a couple of whacks with the back of his hand — more than backhand slaps but short of anything one would fairly consider a punch.
Lopez later apologized, but in a distinctively sorry-not-sorry sort of way.
“I’m sorry for what happened, I was full of pure adrenaline. But there needs to be more respect for the cyclists,” Lopez said, according to The Associated Press.
It wasn’t even the only incident involving a spectator and a cyclist on the course Saturday.
Primoz Roglic of Slovenia was pushed by a spectator and “penalized 10 seconds by the race jury” for failing to push back, the AP reported, thus implying that a bit of combat between athlete and fan is written into the rulebook for these sorts of events.
Lopez ended up finishing 18th in Saturday’s stage and seventh overall, as Richard Carapaz of Ecuador won the event.
Roglic, for his part, finished third.
Had Lopez not lost time to smacking around a spectator, it seems likely he could have finished as high as fifth, but the more than seven minutes by which he trailed the leader and the five minutes by which he was behind the medal stand seem to have been insurmountable.
Giuseppe Martinelli, the manager for Lopez’s Team Astana, seemed far angrier than even his rider did.
“Some kind of punishment would be totally unfair after he was the one who was knocked down and lost time. If he’s punished it’d be the end of cycling as a sport,” Martinelli told Cyclingnews. “I think it’s normal that he reacted as he did. He was on the way to winning the stage.”
“I’m only sorry that he didn’t give the spectator some more punishment, he deserved it for what he did.”
Race officials seemed to agree with Martinelli, if not about the “end of cycling” part than at least about Lopez being somewhat justified, as they decided not to penalize him for his retaliation.
All the same, considering those same race officials gave a 10-second penalty to the guy who didn’t attack a fan, that creates a bit of an odd precedent, albeit one that will certainly have fans thinking twice about getting too close to the competitors.
Referring to his fellow Astana rider and Saturday stage winner Pello Bilbao, Lopez said, “We’re happy. We wanted the victory today, and we got it with Pello.”
“If for not what had happened, I would have been there, too. I had the legs to fight for the win,” he added, according to Cycling Weekly.
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