Belgian Iljo Keisse says he is sorry and regrets miming a sex act while posing for a photograph with a woman and the Deceuninck – Quick-Step team last Friday at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina.
The photograph and news that the Argentine woman reported him to the police surfaced overnight in the western province bordering Chile.
“I would like to apologise, especially to this lady,” Keisse said.
“I made a mistake, I realise that. This will not happen again.
“I want to apologise to everyone here, the Argentinian people, everyone who feels offended. The race organiser has been in difficulty because of this. And to my team. It was a really stupid thing to do. I wish I could turn back time, but I can’t.”
The Argentinian race began on Sunday. Keisse and his team-mates on Friday were asked for photograph together by the women after they stopped for a coffee at the restaurant where she worked.
Keisse said that he did not touch her with his hands or push against her with his body as reported in the Argentinian newspaper Telesol Diario.
The woman, who spoke out on the condition of anonymity, told the newspaper: “I thought it was an accident, but I later realised that it was not like that.
“I am very angry. They disrespected me – I was working.
“They can not come to another country and treat women as things, as something insignificant and worthless.
“I hope that at least they sanction him or call attention to what he did.”
“I’m not a disrespectful person. I made a mistake, I’m human,” Keisse said.
“I feel like I’m being treated as a criminal at the moment. It’s not easy for this lady, for my wife or my children at home. I would like to continue and focus on the race.”
Keisse plans to continue on Tuesday’s stage three of the Vuelta a San Juan, a seven day race. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) leads the race overall.
“I came always here to Argentina to race in San Juan,” he added. “I am here and I would really like to continue the race.”
The six-day star, lead-out rider and Giro d’Italia stage winner is the oldest member, at 36, of the team in Argentina. The Belgian team includes young Colombian sprinter Alvaro Hodeg and 19-year-old Remco Evenepoel.
“I know I have a certain role in the team, I’m one of those guys,” he continued. “I’m supposed to be a role model, I try to do that all the time, I’m always there for my team. But like I said, I made a mistake.”
The women filed a complaint, Keisse went to the local police on Monday and he said the case is now closed. He explained that he had yet to meet the woman in person to apologise.