Peter Kennaugh conceded his Jayco Herald Sun Tour leader's jersey to teammate Chris Froome on the final and queen stage of the 2016 race but it was a verbal altercation with Avanti Isowhey's Pat Shaw that left the British national champion dissatisfied after what had been a successful week of racing.
Kennaugh won last Sunday's Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race with a late solo attack and proved he was in good form, winning stage 1 of the Sun Tour alongside Froome. At the start of the Arthurs Seat stage, Kennaugh enjoyed a 13-second advantage over his Team Sky teammate and when the two-time Tour de France champion rode off the front of the peloton with Avanti Isowhey's Joe Cooper on the second of three ascents, Kennaugh sat in the peloton riding a defensive final lap of the Mornington Peninsula course to ensure second place on GC.
When asked whether he was disappointed to have lost the race on the final day, Kennaugh said: “A little bit yeah, obviously personally but it’s one of those things.
"From a team’s perspective, it worked out perfect. Once he [Froome] went and got the king of the mountains, which was our aim for him to win that as well, and then he just sat on the guy [Cooper] and we just sat behind. We kept it at 40 seconds to make sure the guy he was with at 55 seconds with me didn’t take over my second GC and then I just protected my position all the way to the finish.
"Coming into the race, we always said it was possible to get a one-two. It would be really good to do with Froomey as leader and I was the back up GC. Although those roles changed a bit in the early part of the race, it finished in a perfect way."
Kennaugh then proceeded to explain, with clarifications asked for by the present media, his verbal altercation with Pat Shaw before the final ascent of the climb.
"It's just a shame a little of the abuse I was getting in the peloton was really disheartening to be honest. It was really disgusting," he said.
“When our director said to ride on the last lap to keep it at 40 seconds to protect my second place on GC, he [Shaw] just came up to me laughing in my face, calling me 'a selfish c**t', 'I don’t know how you sleep at night'. Pat Shaw is his name. ‘I don’t know how you sleep at night', ‘You’re disgusting’, and all this.
"That’s sport I guess, it happens, but there is no need for it in the peloton."
After finishing in seventh place on the stage, 32 seconds down on Froome, Kennaugh explained that once Shaw crossed the line 22 seconds later he approached him regarding the matter.
"I went and confronted him after the stage, and he couldn’t even look me in the eye so a bit of a sour note to end on I guess," he said. "It’s good to sort it out. You can’t just speak to people like that on the bike. You wouldn’t walk up to people on the street and speak to people like that. You have to have respect for every person so I went and confronted him and he couldn’t even look me in the eye. His loss I guess.
"It happens every day fighting for position and obviously tensions are high and everyone is stressed but for it to get really personal like that, it is not very often. I don’t know where it came from, but there you go."
When two 'hot heads' collide
Shaw wouldn't comment post-stage although Avanti Isowhey team manager Andrew Christie-Johnston explained his take to reporters.
"The situation with Peter all week is that we’ve had a few incidents on the road with him. One day when we were just trying to position the boys up along side, he basically got stuck in to the guys saying that they shouldn’t be there," Christie-Johnston said.
"We have what I’d say a hot head in Pat Shaw and they have a hot head in Peter Kennaugh and at the end of day when two hot heads start tackling each other, you don’t get a good response from either. They’ve been blueing all week and that was the heat at the end of the week. Words have been exchanged all week about it. At the end of it, they’ll walk away with nothing really to it other than a blue you’d have in a schoolyard, and that’s the way it is really.
"Avanti got head-butted by Kennaugh and he’s responded to that throughout the week and as I said, that happens. It’s racing. When people are trying to hold their ground, they often use their head."
Suggesting the issue had its roots in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Christie-Johnston added that the verbal altercation is simply a component of racing and is confident there is no more to it.
"There was an incident in so far as Pat made a comment but there was nothing more than Kennaugh said to one or two of our riders over the other days," he said.
"It’s not the way we want to see it finish. Simply like I’ve said, we’ve been trying to calm the two of them down. I don’t whether you saw, but I had a chat with Froomey about it and he just said ‘what’s going on?’. He acknowledged that they have someone who is a bit of a hot head and at the same time, so do we.
"That’s racing; you always have those sort of things in the heat of the moment. It’s not so easy when people are going flat out, heart rate up, power up. You are all trying to do your job. There was nothing dangerous that either of them has done but it’s disappointing to see the argument at the end.
“I don’t feel anything bad about Peter because I have one guy who is much the same. I’ll back Pat Shaw up in what he does, he’s not trying to drop the guy ... It’s just words exchanged in the heat of the moment."
Christie-Johnston further explained that every team in the race is likely to have a fiery figure in its squad who are crucial to the overall ambitions of the GC men.
"Every team always has someone who is a bit of a hot head, and you have to run with that because they’re the guys who nearly become the team leaders. They go and fight for their leaders. You don’t want to see your leader using energy to have a blue with some one, you usually want someone else to sort it out. Pete’s made a comment he obviously felt he needed to. It’s disappointing from our side of it, but I think I’ve explained it pretty well."