Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) saw overall victory at the Arctic Race of Norway slip agonisingly through his fingers on the final stage 4 in Narvik. The taste of disappointment was made all the more bitter by what he felt was an 'unfair' move from another rider that prevented him following eventual winner Alexey Lutsenko at the end of the stage.
Enrico Gasparotto was the rider in question, and Barguil remonstrated vigorously with the Dimension Data rider beyond the finish line. "I told him he is an idiot - I can't say more," Barguil revealed to reporters after the podium ceremony.
Barguil was on the wheel of Gasparotto, with the Italian himself behind Lutsenko, as they came into the home straight with the race balanced on a knife edge.
Barguil had started the final day in the overall lead with an advantage of three seconds over Lutsenko, which grew to four seconds thanks to time bonuses at the intermediate sprints – Barguil gained two seconds at the first, Lutsenko one at the last.
With two riders clear in the home straight, four bonus seconds remained for the third place finisher, and Lutsenko grabbed them to make it a tie. However, his sprint was such that a one-second gap was recorded between him and Barguil, swinging the race in the most dramatic of fashions.
Barguil was at first furious and then despondent, clearly feeling he could have sealed victory were it not for Gasparotto.
"It's really shit," said the French champion. "Lutsenko was strong but if I was on his wheel I think I could have managed it. But the guy who was on his wheel tried to flick me. That's not the way of cycling for me.
"I'm really disappointed, because if Lutsenko won in the normal way, it would not be a problem, but to win like that, for me I don't like it."
Asked about his altercation with Gasparotto beyond the line, Barguil expanded: "I just told him he's an idiot, and 'it's not fair what you do in the sprint'. He told me he was on the limit. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't, because when Lutsenko started sprinting he stopped pedalling almost. I lost 15 metres and then it's already done.
"I think he tried to flick me. If he races like that, for me it's not fair. With Lutsenko we had a hard race together already. If he was a teammate of his I could understand that he tried to do that, but no, he just tried to flick me. After a guy like that wants to fight for position and you give him the position and then he flicks you, next time you don't give a space for him."
Barguil was clearly gutted to have missed out on what would have been the first stage race victory of his career.
When he took the leader's jersey on Storheia the previous day, he'd declared himself 'back on track'. He'd endured a torrid 18 months since joining Arkea-Samsic on the back of a superb 2017 Tour de France, and had even contemplated quitting cycling, but the Norway jersey continued something of a summer revival, following victory in the French nationals and a top-10 finish at the Tour.
To see victory slip away in such circumstances, then, was clearly hard to take. Yet, Barguil remained gracious in defeat.
"I'm disappointed but Lutsenko is a beautiful winner," he said. "I can't say he's not a good bike rider, he's really aggressive. I can say he deserves the win, but I think I deserve the win too, and to be second, by only one second, it's hard."
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