Gianni Moscon has said that he wants “to win and shut everybody up” when he returns to competition following his five-week suspension for hitting out at Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo-Oscaro) on stage 15 of this year’s Tour de France.
In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, on the day his ban ends, the Team Sky rider again denied punching Gesbert despite the existence of television footage demonstrating that he had turned and raised his arm towards the French rider. The Italian also claimed that he had once been punched during a race by Stefan Küng (BMC Racing) and he said that he initially felt as though he had been “sacrificed” by Team Sky in the immediate aftermath of his expulsion from the Tour.
Moscon is scheduled to return to competition at the Coppa Agostoni and Coppa Bernocchi at the weekend as he prepares for the World Championships in Innsbruck. Italian national coach Davide Cassani is keen to give him a place in the eight-rider team despite his time away from racing.
“I’m not thinking about it anymore. I don’t care, not even about what they say,” Moscon told La Gazzetta. “They’ve kept throwing shit at me, but in my head, I’ve gone back to the way I was as an amateur. When there was a hill, I’d attack and go away alone. I’ve gone back to thinking like that, in a positive way.”
Moscon’s short professional career has been littered with distasteful episodes. He racially abused Kévin Reza on the 2017 Tour de Romandie, and though Team Sky allowed him to complete the race, he was later side-lined for six weeks. He was disqualified from the 2017 World Championships road race in Bergen when a video emerged of him taking a tow from the Italian team car after he was caught up in a crash on the penultimate lap.
Last October, Moscon was accused of deliberately causing Sebastien Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ) to crash during the Tre Valli Varesine, but the UCI disciplinary committee dropped the case in June, citing the absence of video footage. Reichenbach suffered a fractured elbow and hip in the crash, and the Swiss rider believed Moscon deliberately caused the crash in retribution for his part in highlighting how the Team Sky rider had racially abused Reza at the Tour de Romandie.
Speaking to La Gazzetta in Innsbruck, where he has been based for the past few months after a spell in Monte Carlo, Moscon said he paid little heed to his bad reputation.
“Let them think what they want. The ones who have it in for me might get angry now if I come back strong…” Moscon said. “And I never punched anybody. Instead, I’ve taken punches. And I was declassified at the last Worlds for the tow, but it’s not always like that.
“At E3 Harelbeke, I was on Küng’s wheel, and we were caught up in the same crash. We were working together to get back, he was pulling… The car comes and takes him away, he got back on like that… But I didn’t make any appeal, none. What would I have gained? Nothing. I didn’t see anything too bad in that, he had fallen as well…
“As fate would have it, at Tirreno-Adriatico Küng punched me in the back. I was keeping my team up front, he wanted to pass… I took the blow but I stayed quiet. At the Tour, I didn’t even brush against him (Gesbert)… They make me laugh. But I just do what I like doing, I'll train and I'll ride my bike for as long as I don’t get bored. And I'm paid to do it too. Everyone else can do what they want.”
'Sacrificed' by Team Sky
In the immediate aftermath of his expulsion from the Tour for punching Gesbert, Moscon recorded a video apology that was released by Team Sky. In interviews in the Italian media this month, he has seemingly walked back that apology, and he told La Gazzetta that he was initially upset with Team Sky’s response to the incident, though he insisted that he was happy on the team.
Team Sky withheld Moscon from racing until the UCI handed down its suspension, though they opted not to fine the rider.
“Straight after the Tour, I didn’t like the attitude of the team too much. I had the impression that they had ‘sacrificed’ me even though I wasn’t at fault. But I’ve reflected on it. I don’t think they could have done otherwise, and the Tour was there to be won,” Moscon said, adding that, in the wake of the contentious resolution of Chris Froome’s salbutamol case, “they wanted to demonstrate that even Sky could be punished.”
Moscon hopes to be part of Cassani’s Italian team for the forthcoming Innsbruck World Championships, though La Gazzetta pointed out that he had clashed with likely teammate Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing) last year, while his negative way of racing was criticised by Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) at the Italian Championships this season.
“De Marchi said that we were arrogant at Sky. I didn’t agree and we discussed it. Now there aren’t any problems on my part,” Moscon said.
“I read of Nibali’s puzzlement, but he didn’t say anything to me. I did my race, full stop. We could have discussed it, it would have been better, but I have the utmost respect for him.”
Moscon promised to be on his best behaviour when he returns to racing on Saturday at the one-day Coppa Agostoni race in Northern Italy.
“I’ll glue my hands to the bars and wont take a bidon…" he said, jokingly referring to his previous disciplinary issues.
"I don’t want to give anyone something to get hold of. I know I can’t be liked everyone. There’s a lot of envious people out there. But the people who know me support me. That’s all I need."
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