Bike manufacturer Specialized has said it has been working with Deceuninck-QuickStep to ensure they take "full responsibility for their actions" after the incident that resulted in a woman filing a police complaint against Iljo Keisse ahead of the Vuelta a San Juan. Specialized, which has supplied bikes to the team since 2012, said the behaviour was "not representative" of its brand.
Specialized is the second of the team's sponsors to speak out, after Deceuninck told Cyclingnews it was monitoring responses to the incident and would meet with team management after the Vuelta a San Juan had concluded.
Specialized had been responding to complaints on social media following the incident but issued a fuller statement on Thursday.
"Since we first became aware of the incidents of the past few days, specifically beginning with the regrettable actions of Iljo Keisse, we've been actively working with the Deceuninck-QuickStep team to ensure that the team takes full responsibility for their actions," the statement read.
"Specialized does not condone this type of behaviour and wish to make it clear that it is not representative of our brand. As a sponsor, we realise our teams' behaviours are a reflection of our values and we would like to take this incident as an opportunity to reiterate our belief that every person deserves to be treated with respect, equality, and dignity.
"We are content that the team understood the situation, has learned from it and are taking steps to ensure that something like this won't happen again in the future."
- San Juan woman files police complaint against Keisse
- Keisse saga sparks tensions between QuickStep team and new sponsor Deceuninck
- Lefevere, Deceuninck-QuickStep issue apology over Keisse episode
- Keisse apologises for 'stupid moment' after woman files police complaint
- Vuelta a San Juan organisers expel Keisse after woman files police complaint
- Lefevere threatens to remove entire Deceuninck-QuickStep team from Vuelta a San Juan
While the Deceuninck-QuickStep team have been performing strongly on the sporting side at the Vuelta a San Juan through Julian Alaphilippe and Remco Evenepoel, much of the attention has been on their teammate Keisse.
The Belgian was posing for a photo with his teammates and a local waitress at the Vuelta a San Juan when he feigned a sexual act behind her. The 18-year-old waitress said that Keisse had grazed his crotch against her, though he has denied this. However, he was eventually expelled from the race by the organisers after they had previously requested his team take action. The courts also issued Keisse with a 3,000 Argentinean peso-fine (€70/£60) for 'indecorous' behaviour.
Prior to riding stage 3, the last he would contest before being removed from the race, Keisse spoke to the media in a press conference at the race hotel in San Juan. He called it a "stupid moment" and apologised for his actions.
After Keisse was excluded from the race, Deceuninck-QuickStep made further headlines when manager Patrick Lefevere threatened to take the whole team out of the race and accused the waitress of being motivated by money when making her police complaint. The team did not pull out of the race but did not attend the podium ceremony following stage 4, citing fatigue, and were subsequently fined.
Deceuninck-QuickStep finally issued an official response on Thursday evening. The team apologised "firstly to the woman involved in this regrettable incident, and additionally to all women, fans, and sponsors". They went on to say that they had learned from the incident and would implement training protocols for all riders and staff.
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