It later transpired that the Belgian had been on the receiving end of a punch. "I was with Tosh Van der Sande in the wheel of the men of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, then number 101 suddenly wanted to take my place," Dehaes told Belgian paper Het Laatste Nieuws.
“We were only half way through, so there was no reason for it. I would not budge and when the guy came and bumped into me Tosh and I almost fell. So I pushed him away. Next thing I know, he hit me full in the face.”
The rider in question turned out to be Walter Pérez, who is riding for the Buenos Aries Provincial team. He is a former track rider and won gold in the Madison with Juan Curuchet. They are still the reigning champions, as the event was removed for the 2012 Games in London.
Despite his initial impulse to give as good as he got, Dehaes chose not to retaliate for fear of taking any other riders out. Dehaes wasn’t overly affected by the incident, aside from the black eye, and didn’t lose any time on the stage. Perez, however, finished some 11 minutes behind the stage winner Giacomo Nizzolo.
Lotto-Belisol directeur sportif, Mario Aerts explained that the team would not submit any complaint. “By submitting an official complaint we would not make ourselves popular. I would not want to turn half of the peloton against us.
The duo were the last riders to cross the line during stage 4 on Thursday.