Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) angrily refused to shake hands with Coppa Sabatini winner Andrea Pasqualon, convinced that the Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider had closed him against the barriers in the uphill sprint, forcing him to brake and lose any chance of victory.
Colbrelli finished second, with Francesco Gavazzi (Androni Giocattoli) third, but he was livid at the finish and quickly returned to the podium to make a protest and demand that the race judges look at the television images of the sprint. He wanted Pasqualon relegated.
"If he'd had done a clean sprint, I'd have passed him no problem. I had to stop pedalling and touched his wheel. On this uphill finish, it's difficult to make up ground after that," he said.
"I was going twice his speed. When he saw me coming up, he squeezed me against the barriers. If they want to do things right, as they did when they disqualified Bouhanni and other sprinters recently, they should disqualify him too."
Colbrelli won the Coppa Sabatini in 2014 and 2016. He was looking for a third victory to make up for a disappointing display at the world championships, when he struggled to go with the attacks and was only 13th in the final sprint won by Slovakia's Peter Sagan.
After the judge confirmed Pasqualon as the winner, Colbrelli refused to shake hands with Pasqualon and refused to smile on the podium. He also deserted the post-race press conference.
"The race judges gave him the win and so I've got to accept it. It won't be like that next time," Colbrelli said before heading to the Bahrain-Merida bus.
"He said his gear jumped. He should be able to come up with a better excuse than that. After the finish, he knew he was in the wrong but he didn't apologise. He kept his head down."
Colbrelli stepped up to WorldTour level with Bahrain-Merida this season, winning a stage at Paris-Nice and the De Brabantse Pijl-La Flèche Brabançonne. However, he struggled to be competitive in the spring Classics and in the Tour de France sprints.
With Vincenzo Nibali opting to save his legs for Saturday's Giro dell'Emilia and Giovanni Visconti finishing second on stage 2 of the Giro della Toscana, Bahrain-Merida finally gave Colbrelli team leadership and pulled for him in the final laps of the hilly circuit around Peccioli in Tuscany.
"I'm pissed off. Not because I didn't win but because the team worked for me, pulling right from the start. That's why I'm pissed off," Colbrelli concluded.
Later, after he had time to cool off, Colbrelli posted an apology on Facebook.
"Sorry for the post-race polemics, but my adrenaline was flowing fast and so it happens," Colbrelli wrote. "I want to move on and think about the next races."
The sprint finish that upset Colbrelli. pic.twitter.com/A0PSuPiNYw
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