Former Belgian champion Jens Debusschere (B&B Hotels - Vital Concept) was in the spotlight on Sunday afternoon, and not for his accomplishments on the bike during the semi-classic Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, where he finished 120th.
At 70km from the finish, just before climbing the Côte de Trieu, the peloton was riding on narrow roads. There wasn’t a lot of space to move and suddenly some riders hit the ground, while others tumbled into the ditch. The riders tried to get back up and search for their bikes.
It's a typical incident of the Flemish one-day races during the Spring Classics season, but this was a little different. Suddenly, Gianni Moscon (Ineos) could be spotted picking up a bike and then throwing it into the ditch and against Jens Debusschere.
The incident was captured on live television and, within minutes, the UCI commissaires disqualified Moscon from the race.
Debusschere, the Belgian champion in 2014, spoke with Cyclingnews about the incident while standing next to his team bus in Kuurne. His hand and wrist showed some scratches and a cut. "It was bleeding severely during the race, so I didn’t see how big the cut was. Now it looks OK and it’ll be gone in a day or two," Debusschere said, before describing what happened from his point of view.
"I didn’t crash but I tumbled into the ditch and was crawling back out of it, then I had a bike – not even mine – thrown straight to my head. I had to raise my hand to protect myself in order not to get it into my face. The bike hit me with the chainwheel. At that moment I could have punched him. You’re full of adrenaline but then you realize that the best thing you can do is get back on your bike. You’re disappointed but the reflex should be to get back on your bike as soon as possible and make sure you’re back in the pack. There’s not much time to waste in these races.”
Debuscchere was at a loss to understand Moscon’s behaviour.
"Why was this necessary? This is Flanders. This is typical stuff," he said. "You’ve got to be focused from start to finish. These are nervous races and it can happen that you need to stop or brake. It’s a pivotal point on the course in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. We were sprinting towards the foot of the Côte de Trieu before recovering on the Trieu and doing another sprint to the Oude Kwaremont. Nothing was lost at that point, if you just take your bike and go; they were riding at ease up the Côte de Trieu. His reaction was unnecessary."
It's clear that Debusschere and the race commissaires felt that the behavior from Moscon was unacceptable. "I recently talked with an UCI commissaires and he emphasized that if they see a rider who puts himself, his colleagues or the crowd in danger then they would take him out of the race; that's also about riding on bike paths or sidewalks. This was an incident that wasn't appropriate towards his colleagues," Debusschere said.
It was not the first time that Moscon has exhibited behaviour that wasn't appreciated by his colleagues. He was expelled from the 2018 Tour de France for aiming a punch at Elie Gesbert, while in 2017, he racially abused Kévin Reza at the Tour de Romandie. He was also accused of deliberately causing Sebastien Reichenbach – a teammate of Reza – to crash and break his hip and elbow at the 2017 Tre Valli Varesine, though he was later cleared due to a lack of evidence.
Debusschere isn't a big fan of Moscon and he explained that this incident did nothing to change that opinion. "It’s a series of incidents and it's always the same guy. It's being enlarged now but I really don't mind that he's been sanctioned for it," Debusschere said. "It’s not only this incident, there’s many more incidents. If you ask around in the peloton about how their relation is with him, then ninety per cent will react negatively.
"Obviously, there’s more respect in the peloton for riders from the major teams. You give them some space. That's the case if Quick-Step is passing by, but also Ineos. It doesn’t mean that one has to start pushing. There’s a big difference when you compare him with someone like Luke Rowe, who will always be as courteous as one can be in a peloton. With Moscon, that’s totally not the case. That his personality and that will not change anymore."
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