Events

Commentary: Gianni Moscon has gone too far again

Gianni Moscon was back to his bullying ways on Sunday. The Italian threw a bicycle at Belgian rider Jens Debusschere in an incident that was caught on video.

Gianni Moscon, pro cycling’s version of Biff Tannen, reverted to his old bullying ways at this weekend’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kurrne in Belgium.

Moscon, who made headlines in 2017 for racially abusing Kevin Reza, and then again in 2018 for punching Frenchman Elie Gesbert during a Tour de France stage, again let his rage get the best of him during a bike race. A crash in the peloton sent more than a dozen riders careening into a ditch—an unfortunate if semi-regular occurrence at the nervous Belgian classics. As the riders collected themselves and untangled their bicycles, TV cameras caught a strange sight in the center of the picture frame.

Moscon plucked a bicycle up off the grass and then violently threw it at Belgian rider Jens Debusschere for no apparent reason. As Moscon picked up his own bicycle, Debusschere stood there, bewildered.

I’ve studied the video clip 100 times, and my analysis of Debuscchere’s body language is that he was equal parts amazed by the unorthodox behavior—riders don’t often chuck bikes at each other—and also enraged.

Kudos to cyclingnews.com for grabbing Debusschere after the race at his team bus to get his take on the strange incident. I recommend everyone go read the rest of Debusschere’s thoughts on the incident at the original story, as his perspective on the whole thing is spot-on.

“I had to raise my hand to protect myself in order not to get it into my face,” Debusschere told cyclingnews. “The bike hit me with the chainwheel. At that moment I could have punched him. You’re full of adrenaline but then you realize that the best thing you can do is get back on your bike. You’re disappointed but the reflex should be to get back on your bike as soon as possible and make sure you’re back in the pack. There’s not much time to waste in these races.”

As the Belgian said above, he was so angry by the incident that he could have reacted with violence toward Moscon, who was only a few steps away. To be perfectly honest, I can’t imagine too many fans would have blinked if Debusschere had pushed Moscon into the ditch and then pulverized him with a Macho Man Randy Savage top-rope elbow drop.

But Debusschere didn’t. He checked his anger, realized that retaliating would have been far dumber and more costly than Moscon’s actions, and got back on his bike and got back to racing. He reacted like a paid professional athlete should react. Calm your emotions. Get back to work. Think of the consequences. 

There’s a deeper story within Moscon’s two acts of violence: both were focused on riders who race for lower-tier teams. Moscon races for Team Ineos, one of the strongest and most respected squads in the peloton. When Ineos speeds through the pack, other teams get out of the way, per the unspoken rules of pro cycling’s highest echelon. Within the sport’s pecking order, Moscon outranks Gesbert and Debusschere.

I have yet to read the sport’s unspoken rulebook, but my guess is there’s no subsection that grants riders on top teams the freedom to physically assault riders on smaller squads with punches and airborne bicycles. In both instances, Moscon has abused the written and unwritten rules of pro cycling.

Debusschere’s inaction alone highlights the oafish buffoonery of Gianni Moscon, and it is proof that pro cycling’s overlords should boot him from WorldTour racing for a sizable amount of time. Moscon got ejected in 2018 for throwing that wild punch that glanced off the side of Gesbert’s helmet. It was a dangerous and stupid move that was outside the realm of how pro cyclists normally act.

After that incident, the UCI handed him a five-week suspension, which coincidentally coincided with a rest period. On Sunday the race jury disqualified Moscon, and TV cameras caught images of him tearing up his race number as he pedaled slowly along the road.

We have yet to hear whether Moscon will receive a lengthy ban for his action, or whether Team Ineos’s managers will impose their own sanctions against him. The British squad’s talking points around their Italian bully is that he’s such a nice and sweet guy off the bike.

That’s just great. I have no doubt that Gianni Moscon pets kittens and helps little old ladies cross the street when he’s off the bike. Sunday’s actions, however, prove that he’s still a dangerous menace on the bike. I hate to think what could have happened if the bike’s 53-tooth chainring had struck Debusschere in the mouth.

I said it two years ago, I’ll say it again. It’s time for Gianni Moscon to go. Ban him for the rest of the season.