FDJ.fr rider accused of hitching a lift on team car up the Cipressa before his win

Italy’s national cycling federation, the FCI, is conducting an investigation into claims that FDJ.fr rider Arnaud Démare took a tow from his team car on the Cipressa on his way to winning Milan-San Remo in March – something he and his team manager strongly deny.

The Frenchman was among several riders to crash shortly before the penultimate ascent of the race nicknamed La Classicissima di Primavera, but managed to rejoin the main group ahead of the Poggio before sprinting to victory ahead of Team Sky’s Ben Swift on the Via Roma.

> Arnaud Démare wins 2016 Milan–San Remo

But after the race, Tinkoff’s Massimo Tosatto claimed to have seen the winner benefiting from an illegal tow to rejoin the peloton. He told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “On the Cipressa he had been dropped, then he came past us at twice our speed holding onto his team car.

“I didn’t see if he was holding onto the window or a sticky bottle. Then, in the sprint he was strong. But without that tow, he’d never have been in the sprint. I’ve never seen anything like that done in such a shameless manner.”

His allegations were corroborated at the time by fellow Italian Eros Capecchi of Astana.

Speaking once more to La Gazzetta dello Sport at the weekend’s Big Start of the Giro d’Italia in the Netherlands, Tosatto confirmed he had been contacted by the FCI as part of their investigation and had exchanged emails with the governing body about the episode.

“I don’t want to start another row, I’ve nothing against him and he’s certainly a great rider,” he said of Démare, adding: “I’m not sorry for what I said, because I saw it.”

But Tosatto went onto say: “I came out of the episode badly because after San Remo I took part in the Tour of Catalonia and at the hotel met some riders from his team who attacked me.

“I have nothing to apologise for, and I’ll keep my head high.”

Démare has said that if he had broken the rules, he would have been punished, and his team manager, Marc Madiot, told the Italian newspaper at the weekend that as far as he was concerned, “the issue is now closed.”

But he was more expansive in an interview published today on CyclingPro.net, saying he believed the accusations against his rider were due to sour grapes on the part of Italian rivals.

“I believe certain people have trouble coming to terms with the idea of a French rider on a French team winning a Monument like Milan-San Remo,” he said.

“I think if it were a rider from a major foreign team in the same situation, there wouldn’t have been all this fuss.”

He added: “From the moment the UCI commissaries, the recognised judges, validate the result of the race, [the issue] is closed.

“The day after [the race] Arnaud Démare generously released his Strava data – I say ‘generously’ because he wasn’t obliged to do that – which showed he never rode at 80 kilometres an hour on the Cipressa, which is what Tosatto seems to be saying.”

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.