By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia
Australian Mathew Hayman (Rabobank) has said he doesn't believe the head-but which left him with a broken collarbone in Friday's Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under was malicious, despite a commissaire describing the incident as "very, very vicious". Hayman was knocked to the ground by Italian Elia Rigotto (Team Milram), who became the first rider to be ejected from the tour following the incident.
"I don't believe it was malicious - we race together all the time," said a sympathetic Hayman. "I heard he's pretty upset and I really feel for him."
Rigotto admitted he wept in his room for two hours after the incident on Friday afternoon, before booking a flight home. The Italian decided to leave Australia first thing on Saturday morning, rather than wait until his squad leaves on Monday.
"I cried two hours," Rigotto told La Gazzetta Dello Sport. "I have been a cyclist for 18 years and never done anything wrong.
"I tried to evade him and I lost balance - I hurt him," added the rider. "I'm concerned about Hayman. Immediately after I went to [Graeme] Brown to apologise."
Despite his remorse, Rigotto believes his exclusion from the entire race was harsh, a sentiment even Hayman agreed with. Rigotto became the first rider in the Tour Down Under's 10 years to be thrown off the entire race, with the most severe punishment previously handed down being exclusion from selected stages.
"It's a shame he's gone home," said Hayman. "Everybody wants to come to Australia and it's a shame to leave that way."
Hayman, who hadn't yet seen the television footage from the accident, said he would have a letter written to him in Italian by Rigotto translated last night. The Australian doesn't expect there to be any bad blood between them in the future.
"You know, we've race together all these years and I've hardly spoken to him - but we will probably talk now," added Hayman. "I'm not going to be looking for him in an alley in the near future."
Hayman underwent a successful operation on Friday evening to have a plate and screws inserted into his shoulder to help the broken left collarbone heal quicker. The rider is expected to return to the bike late next week.