Team Sky's Gianni Moscon was back in action at the recent Route du Sud race after serving his six-week suspension for racist comments to FDJ's Kevin Reza at home in Italy. He is not due to ride the Tour de France but will target this weekend's Italian national championships and then make his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a Espana in August.
The 23-year-old Italian finished second behind Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) on Saturday's tough mountain stage to Gavarnie Gedre that included the climb of the Tourmalet. He finished seventh overall at the Route du Sud, 5:38 down on overall winner Silvan Dillier (BMC).
Moscon impressed during the cobbled Classics in April, finished fifth overall at Paris-Roubaix. The racist incident with Reza occurred at the Tour de Romandie with video footage showing the two arguing after teammate Elia Viviani won the third stage to Payerne. Team Sky kept Moscon in the Swiss race, but he then travelled to Manchester for a disciplinary hearing.
Moscon was given a formal written warning and suspended from racing for six weeks, and was due to attend a "diversity awareness course", according to a statement from Team Sky.
"He apologised to Kevin Reza after the stage and again to him and his team the following morning, and this apology was accepted," Team Sky explained at the time.
"Gianni knows that there is no excuse for his behaviour and that any repeat will result in termination of his contract."
Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport after his performance in the Pyrenees, Moscon insisted his conscience is clear, hinting that not all the accusations surrounding the case were true.
"I don't have much to say. My conscience is clear, I accepted the punishment, I took my break,” he said.
Asked if he had any regrets about what happened, Moscon said: "I didn't kill anyone and the accusations are not completely founded. But I'd prefer to not talk about it anymore."
Moscon pushed back on the idea that the incident could have damaged his profile as a talented young rider, claiming he had a lot of support in the peloton.
"I've always had a lot of support from my colleagues; they knew it was something ridiculous. A lot of people cheered for me during the race," he explained.
"I don't think I need to rebuild my image. The people who support me have understood, those that don't have used it to attack me."
Targeting the Tricolore and then the Vuelta a Espana
Moscon served his six-week suspension at home with his family on their apple farm in the Trentino region. He is due to ride the Italian national championships in Ivrea with Team Sky teammates Elia Viviani, Salvatore Puccio and Diego Rosa at the weekend. He will then ride the Clásica San Sebastián, the Vuelta a Burgos and the Vuelta a España.
"I stayed at home in Livo with my family. A few times I also went to my parent's farm. All in all, it wasn't bad," Moscon said of his suspension. "I'm happy with my form. I lost the stage to Pierre Rolland, who is an impressive rider and we rode hard all day.”
"I'm perhaps on the best form for the Italian championships and the route suits me. It's harder than last year where I finished fifth. I want to get a result; it's a goal for me.
"I'm curious to see what I can do in a Grand Tour; I want to see what's its like to race for 21 days and work on my engine."