Orica-GreenEdge’s Michael Albasini insists he did not make racist comments to Europcar rider Kévin Réza during Tuesday’s Stage 16 of the Tour de France. Europcar manager Jean-René Bernaudeau said after the stage, when both men were involved in the break, that Albasini had called Réza a “dirty negro.”
Albasini admitted that he had exchanged words with the Europcar rider, born in Paris to parents from Guadeloupe, but denied that he had abused Réza because of his race, reports SBS.
The Swiss rider, who had been unhappy with the lack of work the Frenchman was putting in on behalf of the escapees, said: “I wasn’t happy, and I was angry. I said to him some words that maybe I shouldn’t have, but none of them were racist.
“He came up and asked what I said. I said it again, I didn’t choose nice words, but that’s how it is when you are on your limit, but there were definitely no racist comments.
“I told him, how nice it was to have one guy on your wheel when you are going full gas, so I don’t understand how it came out that I was saying something racist.”
With the issue coming to the attention of race organisers ASO, the riders’ teams were encouraged to set up a meeting between the pair before the start of yesterday’s stage 17.
“I’m happy I could see him this morning to say my version,” said Albasini after the stage.
“I hope that he understood that there wasn’t anything racist. I was just angry with the situation. We had a good discussion and a handshake, all the stories are now clear.
“You know there are many languages spoken in the bunch, I don’t speak English perfectly, I speak a little bit of French, not perfectly. He doesn’t speak my languages. That can happen, a misunderstanding.”
Bernaudeau meanwhile has made it clear he will not comment further on the episode, telling journalists: “Before you ask a question, the case is closed. They met, they have had an explanation. Case is closed.
“I can’t stand racism. The case is closed. I was a strategic problem. Kevin had no authorisation to pull in the breakaway, they talked and said things they shouldn’t. The case is totally closed.”
Orica-GreenEdge general manager Shayne Bannan said: “We term it [racism] as putting the sport, or the team into disrepute. So putting it at that level, if in fact there was that type of scenario, then we would seriously look at it.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.