If one set of fisticuffs wasn’t enough for a bike race, Team Sky’s Philip Deignan has said that Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez “turned towards me and punched me full in the face” during stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana.
The incident happened just one day before Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) and Ivan Rovny (Saxo-Tinkoff) were both excluded from the grand tour for throwing punches at each other while in the breakaway on stage 16.
Deignan, who is riding in support of Britain’s Chris Froome, told the Irish Independent that Spain’s Rodriguez took exception to him holding his position in the bunch as he lead Froome up the penultimate climb of the day.
“Going over the top of the penultimate climb on Sunday,” Deignan said, “I had my team leader Chris Froome behind me and was moving up to get into the wheels of the Tinkoff-Saxo train at the front, which I was perfectly entitled to do.”
“As we hurtled along in the rain at around 50kph, Katusha’s Spanish team leader Joaquin Rodriguez, who is fourth overall, took umbrage to my presence and nudged me out a little bit. So I held my ground and nudged him back.”
It was at this point says Deignan, that Rodriguez, who currently sits in fourth place in the general classification, punched him.
“Out of the blue, Rodriguez turned towards me and punched me full in the face, splitting my lip and leaving me both stunned and fuming,” he added.
Thankfully, the Irishman says he managed to keep his cool and not react to the incident, however said that it was greeted “with a chorus of shouts from the rest of the peloton.”
Rodriguez was later, according to Deignan, brought over by his director sportif to the Team Sky bus to apologise the following day before the start of stage 16, which the Team Sky rider accepted.
In response to the incident, a Katusha press officer told Reuters:
“It was more a gesture saying ‘what are you doing?’ He did not mean to touch him.”