Gianni Moscon expressed his surprise at finding himself in the lead of the Critérium du Dauphiné after the first summit finish of the race on stage 4. He seemed equally surprised when the first question came in his yellow jersey press conference in Lans-en-Vercors.
"Did Sky chase down every attempt from AG2R La Mondiale to get in the breakaway as retribution for what Romain Bardet said about Chris Froome yesterday?" asked an almost indignant French journalist.
Bardet, AG2R's leader, had said he'd be ashamed if he was in Froome's position of racing and winning Grand Tours with an anti-doping case hanging over him, with the Frenchman later bemoaning on Twitter the fact the quote was seized upon by various media headlines.
"Actually I don't know what Romain Bardet wrote on Twitter yesterday," Moscon said calmly.
"Our tactic today was just don't let a big group go. And yes, everyone was following AG2R, and always when some AG2R guys went in the break, the group was too big for us and we tried to close it. We were not focused on AG2R."
The French have built a reputation as somewhat cold to Team Sky, who have come to dominate the Tour de France in recent years, but Moscon might feel doubly unpopular here given the fallout from his racial abuse of FDJ's Kevin Reza and the ongoing disciplinary case over the incident with Sebastien Reichenbach.
The Swiss rider claims Moscon pushed him off his bike and injured him at the Tre Valli Varesine race last autumn as retribution for highlighting the racial abuse of his teammate, an allegation denied by Moscon. Prior to the Dauphiné, Moscon's last race was Paris-Roubaix in April, the day after which he had an 11-hour hearing in Geneva.
A verdict is still pending, and Moscon's off-the-bike issues have threatened to sour and even distract from what has been a remarkable start to life as a professional. He went deep into the race at his first Paris-Roubaix in 2016, then finished 5th last year in what seemed to signal a bright future in the spring Classics. He has since proved his versatility, playing a starring support role in the mountains for Chris Froome at last year's Vuelta a España and then finishing on the podium at Il Lombardia, not to mention the Italian national time trial title he won last year.
At 24, he is still considered one of the biggest talents in the sport, and his performance on the first mountain stage of the Dauphiné - where he finished just behind the front group of four - put him into his first ever WorldTour leader's jersey.
"Of course it's a big surprise for me. I never though before this race to be this situation today," Moscon said.
"Yes, we have done as a team a really good race, with a good prologue and good TTT, then today all the team was really strong. From the start, [Luke] Rowe, [Dylan] Van Baarle, then on the climb [Jonathan] Castroviejo, Tao [Geoghegan Hart]. Then it was a lucky situation for me to be the first one."
Moscon played down his chances of winning the overall title, insisting he'll be back working for Geraint Thomas as of tomorrow. Nevertheless, with the Tour de France coming up next month, he is surely cementing his debut.
"I'm on the long list for the Tour. Of course, it's important to be in good shape to be there, and to be able to do the job. My form is good, and after the Dauphine I will still have some altitude camp and some training," Moscon said.
"The team will make the decision. I'm really looking forward to the Tour and if the team will bring me I will be more than happy."
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