Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), stage winner in the last Tour de France, says that riders no longer have the same respect they used to have for one another in the peloton.
The Italian remembered when he turned professional in 2005 and raced his first events with Fassa Bortolo. Over a decade ago, fellow riders would quickly put one in his place.
"Now, in my view, that sense of respect among the athletes is lacking," Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "In the past it was not like that.
"If was I not careful, back when I turned pro, I'd be slapped. But real slaps. Punches. Those in control would would give them to those who were the most out of control. Today you can't, if they film you doing so with a mobile phone or with the camera, they kick you out."
Nibali has won all three Grand Tours in his career and more recently, on the final 2019 Tour mountain stage to the Val Thorens ski resort, he celebrated a stage win.
Victories however seemed unimportant this week after the death of young Lotto-Soudal rider Bjorg Lambrecht, with the sport's collective thoughts now shifted to another death in cycling's peloton.
Lambrecht, just 22, crashed around 40km into the Tour of Poland's stage three and in his fall, he hit a cement drainage structure. His Lotto-Soudal team said that there was "a big liver laceration which caused a massive internal haemorrhage. As a consequence, Bjorg suffered a cardiac arrest."
Nibali did not know him personally, but was impressed by him in the 2018 Tour of the Basque Country where the Belgian almost won a stage.
"I had not recovered from the efforts of Flanders, I was going slowly," Nibali explained. "And there was this boy who was very strong, he lined out the group.
"I went to our sports director, Franco Pellizotti and asked, 'Who is this?' 'Lambrecht,' he said. 'The way he going, he should be called Lambretta.' We had joked like that. He smiled and maybe he understood us, who knows."
The 34-year-old noted the many difficulties in a sport run on open roads under any condition.
"We ride on open roads, every day. If anything, we are more like rally drivers. We are more subject to the unexpected. Routes that we do not know. The asphalt ruined. The cat's eyes indicators. A crack," he continued.
"There are those [dangers] from the road and those not caused by the road. The group goes fast, strong. Always more. Just a little inattention, a little longer braking, a little less. Someone slips, and you can't do it anything about it. Some risks are inherent to cycling, which is not an easy sport. On the contrary, it is a tough sport, which does not forgive."
A spectator too close to the race caused Nibali to crash while climbing Alpe d'Huez in the 2018 Tour de France. His camera strap caught Nibali's bars and forced him down, breaking his his vertebrae and ruining the his Tour and the rest of his season.
"There are so many unforeseen events, and you have to improvise a lot. The road hides a large number of pitfalls. More than the past. Many more roundabouts, more traffic," Nibali added.
"You are not afraid, but you must have the experience to move in the right way. Especially when you do not know the course well. The risks can never be eliminated. But trying to reduce them is a duty for everyone."
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