Among the many feuds that seem to be brewing at this year’s Tour, the most
obvious was yesterday’s bout of ‘handbags’ between Crédit Agricole team leader
François Moreau and CSC climber Carlos Sastre.
The two were spotted grappling with each other on the Col de la Core. From
the helicopter camera, Moreau was seen to throw a couple of punches while Sastre
appeared more intent on defending himself and staying upright. The two riders
swerved dangerously towards the middle of the yellow jersey group during the
brief fracas, and both were expected to be thrown off the race last night.
However, after an unexpected show of leniency by the race commissaires, both
will start today. Moreau, the apparent aggressor, received a two-minute time
penalty and a fine of 265 euros, while Sastre got 20 seconds and the same fine
at the end of what was his finest performance in the Tour, finishing seventh and
moving up to 11th overall.
No surprise to hear that the two riders’ versions of the set-to were
radically different. According to Moreau: ‘It’s the kind of thing that happens a
thousand times and is of no importance. I was riding behind Armstrong when
Sastre pushed between us. We tangled with each other and that’s all it was
Clearly blessed with a much better idea of what the media want after two
riders have been having a pop at each other, Sastre’s version was more
descriptive and colourful. According to the Spaniard: ‘Moreau wanted to go in
front of me, and as there was no space he slapped me on the backside. I turned
round and asked what he was doing. Then he punched me. I grabbed his jersey, but
I didn’t return the punch because I’ve got more education than him.’
And Sastre wasn’t finished yet: ‘Moreau is a rider who respects nobody, not
even himself. He’s got problems with everyone. I’m a rider who tried to show
respect to everyone, and I’m not the first person who has had problems with
Moreau. I’m going to complain to the judges because guys like that don’t deserve
to be in cycling. Perhaps he’d be better taking up boxing. For me that Frenchman
is just a piece of rubbish.’
Josep Bochaca, the Spaniard who chairs the Tour jury, explained the reason
for not ejecting the riders: ‘Ejections usually take place when both riders
dismount in order to trade punches or when it happens in a sprint and there’s
physical danger to someone.’
Similar incidents have resulted in expulsion from major events, notably
Francesco Casagrande’s from the Giro in May after he pushed Freddy Garcia into
the barriers, and Wladimir Belli’s from the 2001 Giro after he punched a fan on
a mountain stage. Belgian journalists were also wondering what happened to the
hard line that saw Tom Steels thrown off the Tour after throwing a water bottle
at Fred Moncassin in a bunch sprint a few years back.
For updates on the dispute between Robbie McEwen and Erik Zabel over the
green jersey see the ProCycling website at www.procycling.com.