Worlds: Cassani takes blame for Moscon's disqualification

Italian coach protects young rider after being caught giving sticky bottle

Italian national coach Davide Cassani moved quickly to protect Gianni Moscon and deflect any criticism of the 23-year-old after he was disqualified from the road race at the World Championships for taking a tow from the Italian team car following a crash with 35km to go.

For the first hour after the race, the Italian team was quietly satisfied with Matteo Trentin's fourth place behind Peter Sagan in the high-speed sprint finish. The Azzurri were up front in numbers and managed to keep the race together, with Trentin finishing just behind Michael Matthews (Australia).

Moscon was praised for jumping across to Julian Alaphilippe of France on the last climb of Salmon Hill. The two were only caught with just over a kilometre to go and could perhaps have made it to the finish if the Frenchman had not attacked on the cobbled section and briefly distanced Moscon.

The mood amongst the Azzurri changed dramatically an hour after the finish when the race officials announced that Moscon was disqualified for illegally taking a tow from the team car. A video quickly emerged of the Italian team car towing Moscon back up to the group at high speed. Cassani was in the passenger seat on the right and can be seen holding a bottle that Moscon held as the team car accelerated back towards the peloton. It was clearly an illegal tow.

Video evidence has been used more and more this season and a television judge will soon have a formal role and sit in the television production truck, ready to inform the chief judge of any form of cheating.

Moscon's disqualification was reminiscent of Vincenzo Nibali's disqualification from the 2015 Vuelta a España for a similar tow. It cast a long shadow over Italy's performance. It would have been disastrous if Moscon had gone on to win the world title and then been disqualified.

Moscon has had an outstanding 2017 season, finishing fifth in Paris-Roubaix and playing a key role in Chris Froome's Vuelta a España victory. However, he was also suspended for several weeks by Team Sky for using racist language towards FDJ rider Kevin Reza.

Cassani quickly stepped in to defend Moscon and deflect the wave of criticism.

"What happened is all my fault. I gave him the bottle and told him to hold it," Cassani openly admitted to La Gazzetta dello Sport

"Moscon got a tow of six or seven seconds. He'd crashed and suffered a nasty blow. He waited about 40 seconds because the judges had imposed a barrage (blocking the team cars from moving up). He eventually changed bikes and set off chasing.

"I know I shouldn't have done it and I apologise to everyone because it has made all of Italy look bad. However, what happened shouldn't affect Gianni's image. He doesn't deserve to be tarred by this, he's a good, honest, guy."

Moscon could only admit his error, trying to use the crash as an excuse.

"The video is pretty clear, I can't deny it. But I don't think it changes my ability as a rider and I'll prove it in the future," he said.

"I went fast into a corner and hit [Sergio] Henao. I hit my elbow on the barriers, but I chased back on. I then went away with Alaphilippe. I thought we'd stay away but he attacked me on the cobbles. I don't know why because we could have made it."

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