Deceuninck – Quick-Step miss Vuelta a San Juan podium ceremony amid Iljo Keisse controversy

The team said the decision was not a protest and was due to the stress of recent days

The Deceuninck – Quick-Step squad missed the Vuelta a San Juan podium ceremony after stage four amid the controversy around Iljo Keisse.

A team spokesperson said the decision to skip the post-stage occasion was not a protest, but was due to the riders feeling tired due to “stress”.

Keisse has been kicked off the Argentinian stage race by the organisers because of his inappropriate behaviour towards a female fan.

Team boss Patrick Lefevere said he considered pulling his squad out of the race in protest, and suggested the female fan who reported Keisse to police was motivated by money.

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Deceuninck – Quick-Step spokesperson Alessandro Tegner told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad said: “This is not a protest. Our riders felt a bit tired and not so good after the stress and the efforts of the past few days, so we decided not to let them go to the podium ceremony.”

French climber Julian Alaphilippe leads the general classification, while young Belgian Remco Evenepoel is leading the young rider’s classification.

Alaphilippe, Evenepoel, sprinter Alvaro Hodeg and sports director Davide Bramati were each fined 500 Swiss Francs (£383).

Alaphilippe and Hodeg also had three points deducted from the UCI classification.

Keisse was kicked off the race for miming a sex act while posing for a picture with a female fan last Friday, who said she felt “disrespected and worthless”.

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The fan reported Keisse to police and the organisers decided to throw him out for bringing the race and cycling in general into disrepute.

Keisse publicly apologised after the incident, saying he “made a mistake” and “this will not happen again.”

Team boss Patrick Lefevere fanned the flames after the news emerged by suggesting the fan had been motivated by money, despite admitting that Keisse’s actions were wrong.

Lefevere also said he had considered pulling the team from the race, but decided against it because of the UCI fines it would incur – up to €150,000 (£131,000)