When riders attack: memorable scuffles from recent cycling history

From jockeying for position to warding off unruly fans, racing provides its fair share of opportunities to get physical, sometimes even descending into fisticuffs.

We've all seen sprinters leaning on one another or nudge riders out of the race at high speed – Sam Bennett on Nairo Quintana at Paris-Niice being the latest example.

Wayward elbows and fists are not exactly out of the norm in the peloton, however. We've compiled a list of examples of when cyclists have turned pugilists. Here, Cyclingnews looks back at a few of the more memorable rider-involved scuffles in the sport's recent (televised) history.

Miguel Angel Lopez hits fan at 2019 Giro d'Italia

The Astana rider lost his cool on the penultimate stage of the 2019 Giro d'Italia after being knocked from his bike by a fan on the road to Croce d'Aune-Monte Avena.

Lopez was among those chasing down the attacking trio of Vincenzo Nibali, Richard Carapaz and Mikel Landa at the time of the incident, and gave the fan in question a few swats before getting back on his bike and eventually finishing 18th on the day, more than 1:40 behind the men he was catching at the time.

Froome punches a spectator in the 2016 Tour de France

Chris Froome, who battled back from severe injury this year, has also fought against tough climbs and stiff competition en route to his four Tour de France titles, but he's also had to survive fans getting a little bit too close on narrow mountain roads.

Perhaps he was taking out a bit of pent up anger against the all-too-common occurrence when he delivered a no-look fist to the face of a Colombian fan running along the road next to him during the eighth stage of the 2016 Tour.

Race officials fined Froome 200 Swiss Francs for the punch. He vented his frustration after the stage, explaining "this guy in particular was running right next to my handlebars that had a flag that was flying behind him. It was just getting dangerous, so I pushed him away, I lashed out and pushed him away."

Gianni Moscon ejected from 2018 Tour de France for punch

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Froome's teammate Gianni Moscon has also been in trouble for getting physical – one of a number of controversies the Italian has been involved in. He was thrown off the Tour de France in 2018 after throwing a punch at Elie Gesbert at the start of stage 15.

At Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne 2019 he was disqualified for aggressive conduct after throwing his bike at another rider after a crash.

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Contador punches a spectator in the 2011 Tour de France

Alberto Contador, then riding for Saxo Bank, hit out at a roadside spectator during his climb up Alpe d'Huez in the 2011 Tour. 

A number of fans were already encroaching on Contador's personal space as he made his ascent, but one spectator running in costume as a doctor was the final straw for the Spanish climbing specialist, who delivered a right-hand in the direction of the man's face.

Belli hits a spectator in the 2001 Giro d'Italia

Wladimir Belli rode into the 14th stage of the 2001 Giro d'Italia in third overall, but he closed out the day disqualified from the race.

Verbally accosted by a fan along the climb – a fan who turned out to be a nephew of race leader Gilberto Simoni – Belli lashed out at the spectator, hitting him in the face. Belli continued his ride up the finishing climb, but the race jury unanimously voted to kick him out of the Giro.

Steels throws a bottle at Moncassin in the 1997 Tour de France

The finishing straight of the 1997 Tour's sixth stage saw plenty of argy-bargy. Erik Zabel crossed the finish line first that day, but was relegated for irregular sprinting. Not far behind, however, then-Belgian national champ Tom Steels was getting up to his own shenanigans.

In the middle of the high-speed gallop to the line, Steels threw a bidon at Frederic Moncassin, who had pulled in front of him. Steels was ejected from the race.

Cipollini throws two bottles at a race commissaire at the 2008 Gent-Wevelgem

Apparently frustrated that a motorcycle attempted to pass him while he was in conversation with his sports director, Mario Cipollini decided to throw his water bottles at the driver, a representative of the Belgian Federation. The Italian speedster pitched a bidon fastball into the man's back, reloaded, and then missed his second attempt.

His antics earned him an immediate disqualification upon crossing the Gent-Wevelgem finish line.

Armstrong scuffles with Bouvard in the 1996 Tour de France

A pileup in the fifth stage of the 1996 Tour saw Lance Armstrong getting into it with Gilles Bouvard. The riders locked arms and tried to muscle for the upper hand as people around the dust-up tried to break them up.

Before long, however, both riders appeared to calm down, disengaging and exchanging a few words before re-mounting to continue with the race.

Over a decade later, Armstrong would also lose his temper with a costumed spectator at the 2009 Tour of California. Then riding for Astana, Armstrong shoved a man running alongside the peloton with a syringe into a snowbank.

Barredo fights Costa (with a wheel) at the 2010 Tour de France

A hot day in France saw Carlos Barredo and Rui Costa come to blows after stage 6 in the 2010 Tour.

L'Equipe reported that Barredo was upset after Costa touched bars with him in the closing kilometers, apparently inciting Barredo to charge Costa and attempt to hit him with a wheel.

After Costa quickly got hold of the wheel, the fight descended into fisticuffs before team staff separated the pair. They were both fined about 300 euros for the incident.

Renshaw head-butts Dean in the 2010 Tour de France

The 2010 Tour was apparently a stressful one, as Barredo and Costa weren't the only riders getting physical on the road to Paris.

Lead-out specialist Mark Renshaw was perhaps a bit too aggressive delivering HTC-Columbia teammate Mark Cavendish to victory in the 11th stage of the 2010 Tour. As Julian Dean attempted to create space by shouldering Renshaw to the his left, the Australian put his head into the fray. He delivered multiple head-butts in Dean's direction. Renshaw said after the stage that his actions were necessary to stay upright, but the Tour kicked him out of the race nonetheless.

Brambilla and Rovny come to blows in the 2014 Vuelta a España

Breakaway companions Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) and Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff-Saxo) were involved in one of the more prolonged on-bike engagements in recent memory during stage 16 of the 2014 Vuelta.

By the time cameras tuned in, the pair had already been arguing – at the very least – in apparent disagreement over taking pulls in the break. Video shows Brambilla reaching out to grab Rovny, Rovny taking a swipe at Brambilla and then grabbing him by the shoulder, and Brambilla striking Rovny's face with his hand. Rovny then hit Brambilla in the face, Brambilla hit back, and a few more blows were exchanged before the fight dissipated.

Both riders were thrown out of the Vuelta.

Sierra and González Arrieta duke it out in the 1995 Vuelta a España

Leonardo Sierra and Ramón González Arrieta engaged in an all-out brawl after both went down in a crash in the 1995 Vuelta.

Sierra got his hands in González Arrieta's face and then González Arrieta took a big swing at Sierra. Moments later, both riders were throwing punches left and right. Some of them connected. Others whiffed rather spectacularly. The brawlers were eventually broken up.

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