Francesco Bongiorno lost his chance to win one of cycling's toughest climbs in the Giro d'Italia today when a fan pushed him. Just 2.8 kilometres from the top of Monte Zoncolan, his hopes crashed to the ground.
"I felt that person, it wasn't just a push to help me, but a big push and I hit Michael [Rogers]. I had to stop on the hardest section, to stop and restart on a 20 per cent gradient. It's terrible," team Bardiani-CSF’s Bongiorno told Cycling Weekly. "He pushed me and stopped me, but the least he could've done was to help me get going again. That's the problem!"
Fans ran undressed nearly from head to toe, in a wedding dress and with Colombian flags. One in a world champion’s jersey ran up behind the 24-year-old from Reggio Calabria and pushed hard.
"I heard it on the radio when it happened, I didn't see it, but I just saw the video replay," Bardiani manager Roberto Reverberi said. "There's about 100,000 fans out there, but there's always one idiot in a crowd that size. Unfortunately, it happens."
The incident recalled the time when a fan ran out and knocked Giuseppe Guerini off his bike on the Alpe d'Huez climb in the Tour de France. Fortunately, he was able to remount and continue to win.
"It's like in a football stadium," added Reverberi, "someone's going to ruin it for everyone else."
Rogers kept riding, won and celebrated his second stage win of the 2014 Giro d'Italia. Bongiorno crossed the line 49 seconds later in third place. After the incident, he could never catch Rogers again for the win. Rogers said he did not know what had happened to his rival.
"We'll never know if that was the reason I couldn't win," said Bongiorno, "but for sure, I couldn't challenge for it like I wanted to."
After the incident, the fan threw his hands down in disgust. He returned, however, and ran behind the classification group with riders competing for the race's pink jersey.
"I wouldn't say there are too many fans out there. The fans give us energy, but they need to reflect on this incident, give us more space and respect," Bongiorno said. "It's right that they have a party, it's an honour for us to be here with such a turn out, but they need to understand that we are not joking in that moment."
Bongiorno added that he hopes the fan will learn from his mistake and not push riders again. "I'm sure that he didn't do it on purpose, but he took away my chance to win on Monte Zoncolan."
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