Podium girl Maja Leye says she fought to keep calm as Peter Sagan pinched her behind

25-year-old says she was "frozen to the spot" and only the thought of millions watching helped her keep her composure

by Simon_MacMichael   April 2, 2013  

Sagan bum pinching

The podium girl groped by Peter Sagan following the Tour of Flanders on Sunday has described how she was “frozen to the spot” as the Slovak pinched her behind and how she fought to maintain her composure in front of a TV audience numbering in the millions.

Maja Leye, aged 25, who was planting the traditional kiss on the cheek of winner Fabian Cancellara when Sagan touched her, told Het Nieuwsblad: “Suddenly, I felt this hand. I hadn’t seen it coming because I had my back to him. I understood quickly what had happened. I was frozen to the spot.”

Leye admitted that she fleetingly considered slapping the Cannondale rider, but believes that had she reacted, the situation would have gone from bad to worse.

“I really thought about it,” she revealed, adding: “I had to stay professional. If I had reacted, the incident would have escalated. There were millions of TV viewers in front of their screens.”

She told the newspaper that her boyfriend was none too pleased when he heard what had happened. “He didn’t appreciate it,” she said. “After the race, he received loads of text messages. Luckily, he stayed calm.”

While certainly not condoning Sagan’s behaviour, Leye, whose day job is working in the general secretariat of the Flanders Classics organisation, added that she had accepted his apology for the incident, with the newspaper saying that she will protect her rear in future.

Sagan has said that he will keep his hands to himself in future, and the opportunity to prove good to his word may present itself sooner rather than later – Leye, who only this year started taking to the podium, will be on duty tomorrow at the Scheldeprijs, and again next Wednesday in the Brabantse Pijl, which the Slovak is racing.

The incident has prompted a debate in Belgium and elsewhere about the role of podium girls, with some going so far as to say that behaviour of the type Sagan displayed was understood by the women involved to be simply a case of high jinks that are part and parcel of their role; Leye's comments suggest very strongly that isn't the case.

33 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

No i won't. Fucking grow up Finbar!

posted by SevenHills [154 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 13:19

9 Likes

What kind of a comment is that (first one from batfink)? The girl in question has come out with a very balanced reaction and shown that it did upset her and she actually had more professionalism, whether you approve or not of the job, than Sagan. your comment says more about you than the story.

Her statement is only forthcoming due to the furore around the entire thing. 'Cheeky', 'fun' and 'jest' do not apply to doing that in any walk of life, whether it is in a bar where guys who do think it they are impressing their friends or in Peter Sagans case, in front of the worlds media.

posted by bazzwalsh [1 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 13:29

11 Likes

Isn't it about time the cycling world became up to date with the rest of the modern world, why do we still have podium girls at all? Just because it is traditional doesn't mean it is right or should continue, (house servants, read slaves, was also a long running tradition for example) the technology of the equipment, carbon fibre etc, has progressed so why hasn't the attitudes of the race organisers & sponsors.

posted by Darren C [77 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 13:49

13 Likes

+1 for Spatulala, who summed it all up perfectly. Sagan did something really stupid and quite unpleasant. He apologised, as he should have done, but to be honest the nasty little misogynist comments springing up from fans all over the web are just as unpleasant. FFS, she was a model doing a paid job, and she shouldn't have to 'expect' to get touched up as an employment hazard - regardless of whether her job puts her in the public spotlight or otherwise.

Darren C - spot on too, Ned Boulting said something pretty similar the other day. The whole podium girl thing is cheesy and belongs to a different era - we don't need it in 2013 and the focus should be on encouraging womens cycling as a sport on an equal footing rather than limiting womens participation in major races to an accessory at a prize giving ceremony

posted by jijiandnoah [53 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 14:51

16 Likes

A couple of points; Firstly she is not a model, it states in the piece that she works in the general secretariat of the Flanders classics, secondly, try it at your work place and see how much it costs you. Yes it probabli is a bit Las Vegas boxing/ring girls, also I have not had the privilege of seeing much women's racing, but I'll bet they don't have hunky chaps in shorts for the laydeez.

posted by peterben [52 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 16:24

9 Likes

I assumed she was a model - although to be honest the point is a moot one as she could have had nothing to do with the race in any capacity and even have paid to be up there - she would still have the right not to get groped

posted by jijiandnoah [53 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 16:50

10 Likes

stupid girl if she says it hasn't happened to her before, dear oh dear .. I don't care if she's a model or not, she's a podium girl for a reason ...

posted by Karbon Kev [682 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 17:13

8 Likes

Important things first. Is she on Facebook or Twitter?

posted by Tom Amos [246 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 18:16

9 Likes

When my wife and I see Sagan at the Amgen Tour of Cali she's going to ask him to pinch her butt so I can get a picture of it. She's got a little schoolgirl crush on him. HA!

posted by synthsis [7 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 18:41

11 Likes

Oh Jeezus. 'She's a podium girl for a reason' What the hell does that mean?!!!
Personally It all seems a bit dated to me. That cheesy double kiss does make me cringe. And have noticed riders not looking completely comfortable with it either. You don't see Chippendale type boys on the podium at the Womens races.

posted by Abbie [54 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 18:42

10 Likes

Just remembered why I had decided never to read the comments sections again. It really is better not to know that you share the same passion for a sport with some of the less than enlightened individuals above.

Chiswick

posted by Chiswick [45 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 18:49

10 Likes

Chiswick wrote:
Just remembered why I had decided never to read the comments sections again. It really is better not to know that you share the same passion for a sport with some of the less than enlightened individuals above.

Agree 100%. Some really sad people here.

posted by JonSP [58 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 18:53

12 Likes

Those of us with wives & daughters see the sense in calling time on women as eyecandy at sports events. Sorry, but aren't we keen to *encourage* our wives/daughters to participate in this sport? FFS.

That some women come out in Sagan's defence is no defence. You can find women who think that beaten wives probably deserve it for being a bit lippy to their hard-working menfolk.

Sure, no-one likes being called a misogynist. Grow the fsck up cycling. You're bigger than this.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [676 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 18:56

12 Likes

JonSP wrote:
Chiswick wrote:
Just remembered why I had decided never to read the comments sections again. It really is better not to know that you share the same passion for a sport with some of the less than enlightened individuals above.

Agree 100%. Some really sad people here.

It's a broad church for sure. Take the European approach: *everyone* cycles. If you try to Venn-diagram yourself out of the circles containing self-identifying edjits you'll be in a sport of one pretty darn quick.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [676 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 19:00

9 Likes

He got carried away in the moment. Being on the podium, and having the bottom of an attractive young lady thrust towards him...

He was unprofessional. She wasn't. An apology from him to her is in order, but it's hardly the end of the world.

Nuff said.

Naked Seven
Orange Kish

posted by graham [17 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 20:16

12 Likes

@chiswick

Absolutely. Bottom half of the internet as they say... Although to be honest I'm always particularly disappointed to read this kind of knuckle-dragging crap here

posted by jijiandnoah [53 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 20:59

8 Likes

Sagan is a fool, I'd have bitten it Smile

posted by Greebo954 [8 posts]
2nd April 2013 - 21:19

8 Likes

It was foolish
It was wrong
Sagan is a young and foolish man (that's not a crime).

He's apologised
She's accepted apology

Move on, we've all done it (when young and foolish) and if you haven't it may explain why you're all so uptight and politically correct in your middle years..

Ultimately he made himself look stupid, he came off worst by far..

Grow up, nobody died ..

Me, Myself and I

posted by phax71 [305 posts]
3rd April 2013 - 7:33

15 Likes

I wonder if those that defend him, or imply she should expect it as she's a podium girl, or bemoan 'political correctness' have any idea how creepy they sound?

posted by RAds [11 posts]
3rd April 2013 - 7:50

12 Likes

phax71 wrote:
It was foolish
It was wrong
Sagan is a young and foolish man (that's not a crime).

He's apologised
She's accepted apology

Move on, we've all done it (when young and foolish) and if you haven't it may explain why you're all so uptight and politically correct in your middle years..

Ultimately he made himself look stupid, he came off worst by far..

Grow up, nobody died ..

Cool. Let me know when your wife/daughter's out & about, I'll give her a wee nip on the bum, shall I?

Maybe if more people were 'uptight in {their} middle years' about BS like this (and WTF has *my* age got to do with it eh?) then you wouldn't have to justify the actions of misogynistic berks. Why not suggest Berlusconi for UCI head while you're at it?

And as for 'we've all done it' - piss_off_mate. I've never groped a stranger. Ever. You're admitting you have?

This forum stands as a public record of the self-selecting 'enthusiatic amateur' cyclist's attitudes on different topics. Anyone from outside the sport would read the above shite and think half of men on bikes like to cop a quick feel if they think their status will let them get away with it, and their fellow leerers will at best admonish them for being dumb enough to do it in front of a camera, using age / maturity / excitement as an excuse.

If you think this way, keep it to yourself. I have no desire to read about your lack of respect for women.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [676 posts]
3rd April 2013 - 8:21

13 Likes

KiwiMike wrote:
phax71 wrote:
It was foolish
It was wrong
Sagan is a young and foolish man (that's not a crime).

He's apologised
She's accepted apology

Move on, we've all done it (when young and foolish) and if you haven't it may explain why you're all so uptight and politically correct in your middle years..

Ultimately he made himself look stupid, he came off worst by far..

Grow up, nobody died ..

Cool. Let me know when your wife/daughter's out & about, I'll give her a wee nip on the bum, shall I?

Maybe if more people were 'uptight in {their} middle years' about BS like this (and WTF has *my* age got to do with it eh?) then you wouldn't have to justify the actions of misogynistic berks. Why not suggest Berlusconi for UCI head while you're at it?

And as for 'we've all done it' - piss_off_mate. I've never groped a stranger. Ever. You're admitting you have?

This forum stands as a public record of the self-selecting 'enthusiatic amateur' cyclist's attitudes on different topics. Anyone from outside the sport would read the above shite and think half of men on bikes like to cop a quick feel if they think their status will let them get away with it, and their fellow leerers will at best admonish them for being dumb enough to do it in front of a camera, using age / maturity / excitement as an excuse.

If you think this way, keep it to yourself. I have no desire to read about your lack of respect for women.

I think I made my opinion clear - IT WAS WRONG..

.. and I wouldnt let anyone quite so wound up/frustrated anywhere near the womenfolk in my life ... so that'll be a no KiwiMike..... try a bar or evening class ... Smile

Yes I have pinched the odd bottom as a teenager/early twenties idiot, again CLEARLY WRONG, but not the end of the world...

... and I'm in my middle years too for what it's worth, I just tend to keep a little real-world perspective on these things..

Have a nice day, and DO CALM DOWN DEAR!!

Me, Myself and I

posted by phax71 [305 posts]
3rd April 2013 - 8:27

8 Likes

I did it in a club once, she laughed, we got talking, and went out for a few weeks. Sure, it was a childish thing to do (I was 19); I should have just offered to buy her a drink (I think I apologised later). I wouldn't do it again, but neither was there any need for my head on a stick.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3564 posts]
3rd April 2013 - 8:55

8 Likes

phax71

I imagine you'd probably find its the people in their "middle years" who are quickest to excuse this kind of stuff. Not sure how you get to the idea that not groping women in an unsolicited manner during your formative years is some kind of character flaw, but who am I to say? I'm totally uptight about the whole thing

I don't think the issue here was about having Sagan's "head on a stick", I think it was more about the disappointing "she was asking for it" response from the cycling community - which to be fair is not that much of a surprise given the sport's history of treating women cyclists as a second class group

posted by jijiandnoah [53 posts]
3rd April 2013 - 10:53

10 Likes

Still don't understand why we even have podium girls. An unpleasant sexist relic of times past. Can't we just ditch this bad tradition and move on to better things?

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1113 posts]
3rd April 2013 - 12:10

9 Likes

my god there are some uptight wankers on here!!,fair enough,he was out of order to pinch her bum,but he hardly kicked the shit out her!

posted by seanboy [23 posts]
3rd April 2013 - 20:36

9 Likes

I don't think I've ever been more appalled at a set of comments on road.cc

I suggest that the entire thread be deleted.

posted by FMOAB [240 posts]
3rd April 2013 - 20:48

13 Likes

For those suggesting its just a bit of a laugh, you might want to consider that in this country if the girl had made a complaint he could be facing criminal charges. Unwanted physical contact is assault and battery. If it was proven it was of a sexual nature it would be sexual assault.

Anybody who's defending sagan fancy failing the crb check to work with kids at their local club or be turned down for a job because they have a conviction for sexual assault ?

Scott Spark 910 - Boardman Team Carbon - Planet X XLS

posted by colinth [189 posts]
4th April 2013 - 7:15

13 Likes

The first time I watched a race I felt genuinely uncomfortable with the whole podium girls thing. I know cycling is a sport of tradition, but that takes the piss.

The Sagan incident is unpleasant, but the comments sections on cycling websites are even worse.

posted by TomvanHalen [33 posts]
5th April 2013 - 10:04

14 Likes

peterben wrote:
Yes it probabli is a bit Las Vegas boxing/ring girls, also I have not had the privilege of seeing much women's racing, but I'll bet they don't have hunky chaps in shorts for the laydeez.

@peterben Your comment made me search out some podium boys. In some sort of karmic retribution, it would appear said "hunks" do exist! In women's Cyclocross, see here: http://www.cyclingnews.com/blogs/photos/a-whirlwind-week/90780

posted by Mikeduff [24 posts]
5th April 2013 - 14:24

7 Likes

His expression is perfect! I love it. Good job boy... good job.

muse kidd's picture

posted by muse kidd [2 posts]
19th December 2013 - 16:40

9 Likes