Accused of reckless sprinting in the crash-marred final of Stage 1 at Circuit Cycliste Sarthe, Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling), the day's winner and target for Nacer Bouhanni's post-race spray has said he did not intend to disrupt the French champion's run to the line. Pelucchi reportedly squeezed Bouhanni before opening up his sprint.
"I do not like to lose but today I came across a madman," said a furious Bouhanni to tuttobiciweb.it. "In the sprint I was on the wheel of [Bryan] Coquard and when I wanted to move left with 200 meters to go Pelucchi hooked my handlebars. This guy is a menace!"
The apparent move by the stage winner Pelucchi threw Bouhanni off his line and he subsequently finished in fourth place. Pelucchi however, was saddened such comments would fall his way and noted that his actions were unintentional and that he would not risk his or another rider's life simply to win a bike race.
"I'm happy for this victory and I want to thank the team but I'm sorry for the statements made by Bouhanni who called me a "public danger"," said Pelucchi.
It was Pelucchi's first win since taking out Stage 3 at last year's Ronde de l'Oise. The 24-year-old spent the 2012 season with Europcar before signing with the newly developed Swiss IAM Cycling Project for 2013. There was nothing irregular in his sprint, according to the Italian who added that he too almost came to grief in the finale.
"There was contact in the sprint between him and me. I do not deny that but it was certainly not intentional. I had another rider on my left and found myself in a sandwich. I can understand his adrenaline after the finish but I would like to remind him that I almost crashed too and I certainly do not like to risk anyone's life as he claims.
"These things happen in a sprint. I disagree with what he said and it seems to me that what he wanted to raise is polemic, inappropriate and baseless," he added.
Thankfully the hectic sprint, that was contested by only a select few, did not result in another crash after a 25-rider pileup disrupted the final moments of the stage. Orica GreenEdge rider Sam Bewley suffered a broken collarbone in the fall that occurred inside three kilometres to go while five riders from Argos-Shimano also hit the ground with Tom Dumoulin almost certain not to start Stage 2.
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