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Cyclists behaving badly — times when the pros lost the plot

Things can get fiery in the pro cycling peloton, and sometimes they explode. Here are some of the biggest eruptions starring fans, dogs and, of course, other riders

With contributions from Steve Thomas

Astana’s Luis Leon Sanchez once flicked the bird at breakaway companions in the Giro d’Italia, seemingly in response to something that was said by one of them, but that’s a mild falling out compared to some we’ve witnessed from professional riders over the years.

Leaving doping incidents to one side which would demand a very, very lengthy separate article (here's one on motor doping though) behold some of the best examples of pro cyclists getting way too aggressive...

Miguel Angel Lopez, hitting a man while he’s down

Superman by nickname, but not quite so by nature. Miguel Angel Lopez has long since been something of a hot potato to handle for the various teams he’s ridden for, and there are numerous examples of the Colombian uttering some pretty unpleasant outbursts when things don’t go his way.

In this footage from the 2019 Giro d’Italia, Lopez continually hits a fan while on the ground after what appeared to be a run-in that floored him. While we can sympathise with his anger, his actions are hard to justify in a civilised world. Surprisingly, Lopez was neither thrown out of the race or taken to case legally for this incident.

Gianni Moscon, the eternal flame

Where on earth do you start with some of Gianni Moscon's antics? Despite his intermittent racing excellence, you do have to question just how team managers dare to re-sign him year after year, given his blatant and regular incidents involving physical attacks and racial abuse

Above is footage of the Italian hitman getting himself thrown out of the 2020 Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne for a minor infringement (by his own standards that is).

Lars Boom throws a punch

Lars Boom was disqualified from the Tour of Norway last week after he apparently elbowed and then punched Sport Vlaanderen's Preben Van Hecke.

"He was on my wheel and I almost crashed, so I got a little hot headed,” said Lars Boom. “I don't want to crash, especially when an idiot does something like that."

A race referee told Norway’s TV2, “You cannot punch a competitor and particularly not in the face… So we have taken the decision of taking him out of the race."

You can’t really argue with that.

Read our story here

Carlos Barredo and Rui Costa come to blows 

Crikey! Apparently as a result of an incident during the finish of Stage 6 of the 2010 Tour de France, Carlos Barredo hurled himself at Rui Costa, waving his front wheel in the air and shouting “hijo de puta!” That’s Spanish for… well, it’s quite rude.

It all kicked off in a primary school playground style, both riders picking up a fine along with a few bruises.

Go to our original report 

Mark Renshaw uses his head

It is said that bike racing and success at it are as much about using your head as your legs, and Aussie sprinter and lead out man for Mark Cavendish took that to the extreme in the 2010 Tour de France. There are racing incidents a plenty around, but this was one that was just nuts, in every sense.

Into the final sprint, Renshaw found himself jostling for prime road space with Kiwi sprinter Julian Dean and his teammate Tyler Farrar. In true track keirin racer style he decides that his head was harder than his elbows, using it blatantly in the sprint and promptly getting himself thrown off the Tour. 

A spat featuring Mathieu van der Poel

Mathieu van der Poel has always been something of “special” case, as the Dutch might say. His finite temperament and attitude have occasionally undermined his sheer brilliance on the bike over the years.

Sadly, he is prone to rather borderline outbursts at times, such as his infamous Australian World Championship late night run-in with two unruly teenage girls in a hotel. 

Although opinions are divided on his recent Hulst cyclocross “spit and run” incident, there’s little doubt that it was in bad taste, so to speak, even given the clear meaning of the hand gestures of the fan in question. 

Bernard Hinault’s not so nice Nice punch-up

'The Badger' was one of the all-time greats of the pro peloton, and he ruled the roads with something of an iron fist, which he was also prone to using in the physical sense on occasion.

In the 1984 Paris-Nice race the peloton was stalled by protestors, and Bernard found himself turning all Jackie Chan, until he was pulled back by a protestor that was. He then reached out for a little help from his friends, a sad twist in the bravado.

Andriy Grivko v Marcel Kittel

Marcel Kittel bloodied at Dubai Tour.jpg

German sprinter Marcel Kittel was left with blood streaming down his face at last year’s Dubai Tour, claiming afterwards that he had been struck by Astana's Andriy Grivko – who was subsequently thrown off the race.

Kittel later Tweeted, “I just googled Grivko and it said he is 70kg. Dude, know your limits!!”

Ooh, catty!

Here's our report

Marcel Kittel body slams his bike

Marcel Kittel proved that he can deal out the aggro too, if only to his bike, during Stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico 2014.

Kittel had been hoping to contest the sprint finish but a crash put paid to his chances with 2.5km to go. He really didn’t take it well. 

He redeemed himself later by Tweeting.” I'm VERY sorry for throwing my beloved Giant Propel on the ground. I still love it! We're just having an intense relationship. #deepemotions”

Chris Froome “pushes” fan

Even mild mannered Chris Froome has been known to get riled on occasion, notably on the Col de Peyresourde during the 2016 Tour de France when he lashed out at an encroaching Colombian fan.

"Nothing against the Colombian fans," Froome told the press. "I think they’re fantastic and bring a great atmosphere to the race. But this guy in particular was running right next to my handlebars [and] had a flag that was flying behind him. It was just getting dangerous, so I pushed him away, I lashed out and pushed him away."

So there you go, it was as a push, not a punch or a forearm smash. Whatever, Froome went on to win the stage, the race and considerably more money than the 200 Swiss Francs (around £150) fine that was imposed on him by race officials for “incorrect behaviour”.

Read our original story here

Thomas Voeckler dishes out some verbal

Everyone’s favourite pro cycling gurner Thomas Voeckler (retired 2017) stopped on a climb during the 2014 Tour de France to dish out a lesson in spectating etiquette. The French rider was on a hors categorie (HC, beyond category) climb at the time. 

Fair play to Tommy, we say. 

Check out our original story

Cadel Evans hits out at a reporter

An injured Cadel Evans really wasn’t into being touched during interviews after Stage 10 of the 2008 Tour de France. 

Evans looked pretty scary, especially for a man who was clutching a cuddly lion at the time.

Alberto Contador flicks fan

Alberto Contador had beef with some halfwit dressed as a surgeon who was running alongside him on Alpe d’Huez in the 2011 Tour de France.

Bertie dealt out a swift flick to the face – ‘punch’ would be putting it a bit strong.

Wiggins throws his bike

It’s a classic. How could we not include it? 

Bradley Wiggins achieved a lot in his cycling career – including winning the Tour de France and five Olympic gold medals and achieving several world records – but unquestionably* his greatest accomplishment was parking his bike perfectly against a wall from half a road-width away while having a bit of a strop - understandably - during the fourth stage of the Giro del Trentino in 2013.

You can’t teach that.

* Well, it’s quite questionable, to be honest.

Mark Cavendish, bottles and dummies

Manxman Mark Cavendish may well be a fast sprinter, arguably the greatest of all time, but all too often his fast temper and line-lunging attitude casts a shadow over that, as many in the media and the peloton can attest to.

From self-righteous bottle throwing and other outbursts towards the media and fellow riders, through to slamming his wheels in rage during sprint finishes where he gets blocked and beaten, it's perhaps an unfortunate part of Cav's character. His tantrum aimed at a team mechanic in the 2021 Tour de France is perhaps his most infamous recent toy- throwing incident. 

And... Sagan vs Cavendish

This one’s a questionable inclusion, admittedly, because the incident at the end of Stage 4 of the 2017 Tour de France didn't result from a rider getting angry. Rather, things just got a bit tasty in the sprint for the line, as they do on a regular basis, Peter Sagan's elbow flicked out – whether intentionally or in an attempt to regain his balance – and Mark Cavendish went down like a sack of spuds.

Cav broke his shoulder blade and Sagan was lobbed out of the race, so there were no real winners here… apart from the other sprinters, perhaps, like Marcel Kittel who ended up with five stage victories.

Dance hits of the 1995 Vuelta a España

That time when the Flowerpot Men hit the home brew in the garden shed and then got into a cat fight over Andy Pandy. Yes, this classic 1995 Vuelta punch-up never fails to amuse.

We're reliably informed that Leonardo Sierra and Ramón González Arrieta later signed up as a duo on Strictly Come Dancing...

What did we miss out? Let us know in the comments below.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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