One day after fisticuffs at the Vuelta a Espana saw two riders trade punches during stage 16 and get thrown out of the race, there is talk of another incident in the peloton.
In an Irish Independent column, Philip Deignan (Sky), wrote that Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) punched him in the face and split his lip.
Deignan said the pair first shoved each other as they navigated a descent at 50 kph during Sunday’s stage 15 of the Spanish grand tour.
“As we continued riding, suddenly, out of the blue, Rodriguez turned towards me and punched me full in the face, splitting my lip and leaving me both stunned and fuming,” Deignan wrote. “Thankfully an immediate desire to knock the little Spanish climber out was quelled and I had the restraint and presence of mind to realise that hitting him in such treacherous conditions would only worsen the situation and endanger the riders around us.
“As Rodriguez’ punch was greeted with a chorus of shouts from the rest of the peloton, I warned him that I’d deal with him off the bike.”
Deignan said he did not retaliate later after realizing “it wasn’t worth stooping to his level.”
Rodriguez visited the Sky bus before Monday’s stage, according to Deignan, and apologized for the incident.
“I swallowed my pride and simply let it go,” Deignan wrote.
Deignan said the incident began after the riders crested the top of the Puerto del Torno climb, a Cat. 2 ascent that peaked 35 kilometers from the finish line in Lagos de Covadonga.
“Going over the top of the penultimate climb on Sunday, I had my team leader Chris Froome behind me and was moving up to get into the wheels of the Tinkoff-Saxo train at the front, which I was perfectly entitled to do,” Deignan wrote.
“As we hurtled along in the rain at around 50 kph, Katusha’s Spanish team leader Joaquin Rodriguez, who is fourth overall, took umbrage to my presence and nudged me out a little bit. So I held my ground and nudged him back.”
At that point, according to Deignan, Rodriguez threw the punch.
A Katusha team official told Reuters the contact was accidental.
“It was more a gesture saying ‘what are you doing?’” a Katusha press officer said. “He did not mean to touch him.”
Sky rider Pete Kennaugh was not buying Rodriguez’s explanation of the “accidental” punch, posting on Twitter, “What a lying prick, take responsibly for your actions coward!”
UPDATE: At a press conference held during Tuesday’s press conference, Rodriguez addressed Deignan’s claims, saying, “”I read about it this morning, and I am surprised to hear about this two days after it happened. There was nothing to it, nothing more than circumstances of the race. You get tangled up, not just with him, but 40,000 times. There are always going to be a few bumps. It certainly was not as exaggerated as he made it out to be. I certainly do not give it any importance. At the moment, we excused ourselves, and made up.”