Borghesi felt like a 'criminal' in disqualification for littering at Tour of Flanders

 Letizia Borghesi (on right) rides alongside teammate Giulia Marchesini in 2020 Giro Rosa
Letizia Borghesi (on right) rides alongside teammate Giulia Marchesini in 2020 Giro Rosa (Image credit: Getty Images)

Letizia Borghesi (Aromitalia-Basso Bikes-Vaiano) was disqualified for throwing a water bottle at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday. In a post on Instagram, Borghesi said she felt that the punishment was excessive and that it made her feel 'like a criminal', adding that the fine was more than what Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) earned for winning the race.

Cyclingnews understands that the UCI has since reduced the amount of the fine.

"Yesterday at the Tour of Flanders I was disqualified for having thrown a water bottle outside the permitted areas, due to the new UCI rules that came into effect just yesterday…" Borghesi wrote in a post on Instagram on Monday.

"I made a mistake and I'm very sorry for what happened, but in the end of a tough race like this (I was around 30th position), when you're at 110 per cent and you're pulling out all the energy you have left, you don't think so clearly anymore. The new rules had been explained to me well, but the gesture I made, since until March 31 it was the norm for us cyclists, came to me automatically."

The UCI introduced new littering rules, which came into force on April 1, as part of a package of new measures. Discarding water bottles and garbage outside of waste zones in races are now met with instant disqualification.

Borghesi wasn’t the only rider disqualified from races for littering on the weekend. Michael Schär (AG2R Citroën Team) was disqualified from the Tour of Flanders after throwing a water bottle towards a group of fans while he was off the back of the peloton with a mechanical. Kyle Murphy (Rally Cycling) was disqualified from GP Indurain with around 25 kilometres remaining when a commissaire saw him drop an empty energy gel wrapper outside of a designated waste zone.

In addition to being disqualified from the women’s Tour of Flanders, Borghesi was fined. Although she did not confirm the amount of the fine, she said it was more than what the winner of the race would earn in prize money. The minimum prize money for first place, as stipulated by the UCI for a Women’s WorldTour one-day event, is €1,535. However, Cyclingnews understands that the UCI has since reduced the amount of the fine.

"I also think, however, that the disqualification is an excessive punishment and even more so the fine that was given to me since I would not earn that money even if I won the Flanders... For this unconscious gesture they really made me feel like a 'criminal' and I think that much more serious things happen than this to be punished," Borghesi said.

Schär wrote in a post on Instagram that cycling mementos, like water bottles tossed at fans at the side of the road during races, reminded him of his dream of becoming a cyclist as a child. Borghesi echoed that sentiment, writing that bottles collected by fans, especially children watching the races, was a part of cycling that she enjoyed.

"The bidons also do not pollute because they are collected by children or fans who collect them, I think seeing the smile of a child when he takes a flask at the side of the road is priceless. With this new rule we'll see a lot less smiles and this certainly isn't good for cycling," Borghesi said.

"As for the paper and gels, I agree that they should not be thrown into the environment. Having said that, I apologize for having violated the new rule, and I'm sure it won't happen again."

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Kirsten Frattini
Women's Editor

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.