Madis Mihkels and Gerben Thijssen from the Belgian pro cycling team Intermarché-Wanty, who shared racist gestures on social media during the Tour of Guangxi and were subsequently withdrawn and fined, have now made a financial contribution to the team's junior cycling academy and spent a day with the junior cyclists to teach them "the values of cycling".
In October, 20-year-old Estonian neo-pro Mihkels, who took his first professional win at the Tour of Germany last year, made a crude, offensive gesture by slanting his eyes as part of an Instagram story on Gerben Thijssen’s account, taken in Beihai, where the Tour of Guangxi, a six-stage race in the south of China, was set to begin the following day.
Mihkels and Thijssen were immediately pulled out of the Tour of Guangxi, a six-stage race in the south of China, on the eve of the first stage in October, following the widespread circulation on social media of what Intermarché-Circus-Wanty described as a "regrettable" photo.
A month later, the two young riders were also fined by the UCI and ordered to attend an educational course on "the fight against discrimination".
As a final disciplinary action taken by Intermarché, both Mihkels and Thijssen have been asked to make a financial contribution to the Ardent Group Cycling Academy, a junior program linked to the Belgian squad, Cyclingnews reports.
Over the winter, the pair have also spent a day with a junior club, teaching young club members "the values of cycling" and position themselves as "an example for the youth", a spokesperson for the team confirmed.
Intermarché-Wanty, who have been praised in recent years for their contribution to diversity in cycling and became the first team to feature a black African winner of a Grand Tour stage, after the dynamic Biniam Girmay won a Giro d'Italia stage in 2022, has insisted that their commitment to inclusion remains as strong as ever.
Maxime Segers, the team's Chief Operating Officer, said: "With more than 15 nationalities from different continents in our staff and riders, our team insist on the diversity and wants to include all communities."
After the post was shared widely and condemned among cycling circles, Thijssen's Instagram story and account were quickly deleted. The team initially only pulled Mihkels from the Tour of Guangxi, but then swiftly ammended their decision by announcing that Thijssen would also be withdrawn.
"We sincerely regret the behaviour of our rider Madis Mihkels and the image shown on the social media," Intermarché-Wanty said at the time.
"We would like to apologise to the Chinese people and fans, to the government of Guangxi, to the Chinese Cycling Association, and all parties involved in the organisation of Tour of Guangxi for the image given of our sport.
"For ever, our team Intermarché-Circus-Wanty, composed of more than 15 nationalities in our project, and our partners always defend firmly equal opportunities and fight daily against racism."
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.