“We thought it was one of my rivals,” reflected former Austrian national champion Christiane Koschier, now based in Italy, after she had the misfortune of being shot while warming up for a time trial by a man who insists he was aiming his weapon at a hare.
Joking apart, the cyclist, originally from Innsbruck, realises she had a lucky escape when she found herself in the sights of a hunter in Collerodo near Vicenza last weekend.
The 40-year-old, who rides for Verona-based amateur team Fimap, spent the night in hospital after the incident last Sunday.
The following day, she told L’Arena: “I’m back home already. I consider myself lucky. Sure there was some bad luck. I’m trying to put it all behind me.”
Asked if she would be back riding soon, she said: “Here I am. I got shot, but I didn’t fall off.”
She went on: “They’d need to shoot me to get me off my bike. And that’s what happened. But I haven’t lost my good mood, nor the will to ride.”
Recounting what happened, she continued: “I heard a bang, very close to me. I didn’t immediately realise what had happened. I thought it was my tyre. Then, I felt a string pain, which got worse.”
She went on: “I was hit by a shot from a hunter. It seems incredible, but that’s what happened. I was still warming up for the time trial that I was about to ride.
“It was about 8.30am. I was with some team mates and my boyfriend. I collapsed.
“I was hit by a two pellets in my thigh and my tibia. On my upper body, I was only hit on my side, on my back and on my wrist, given I was protected by a jacket and a gilet.”
She said that the ambulance arrived “almost straight away,” adding,
I remember that my boyfriend called the hunter back, I know that the Carabinieri got involved.
“I was taken to the ambulance, and they removed the pellets from my tibia there.
“Everything else took place in hospital. The hunters? I saw them running. Maybe they didn’t know what was happening?”
The cyclist continued: “It certainly hasn’t made me want to give up cycling. I’ve been doing it since I was a little girl and I’m definitely not going to give up now.”
She added: “When I got home from hospital, I thought about everything that had happened. I think I’m lucky. If the pellets had hit me in the neck or the head, it could have been a tragedy.”
Speaking of the shot itself, she explained: “The hunter wanted to shoot a hare. He took aim and killed it. It seems the pellets, on a ricochet, hit me too. But I don’t understand. I wasn’t somewhere there were trees, I was in an open space.”
Ever the competitor, she said: “They can only stop me by shooting me.”
The incident involving Koschier evokes memories of Greg LeMond, shot in a hunting accident in April 1987 which prevented him from defending his Tour de France title that year.
He missed the next two editions of the race, but returned to win it in 1989 and again in 1990.
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.