Former world champion Alessandro Ballan has appealed for drivers to respect cyclists following an incident in which a motorist overtook him so closely that he struck the former world champion’s hand, with an argument ensuing between the two.
The former BMC Racing rider posted a video to Facebook on 23 December in which he recounted what had happened while out on a training ride from his home in Asolo in north east Italy’s Veneto region.
The incident happened a fortnight after Ballan’s friend, the UAE Team Emirates rider Sacha Modolo, was knocked off his bike in the same area, luckily without serious consequences, although he was unable to persuade the Carabinieri to take an interest in what had happened,
Ballan, who is now a commentator with Sky TV in Italy, says he was riding along a straight road at a speed of 35 kilometres an hour when a driver overtook him, doing as much as twice that speed, the vehicle’s wing mirror hitting him on his hand.
The 38-year-old raised his arm in a gesture that any Italian motorist would immediately recognise, whereupon the driver, whose age Ballan put in his early 20s and who had presumably spotted it in his mirror, stopped and got out of his car.
“It was a mistake to react, I understand that, but I took it really badly,” Ballan said. “Perhaps my reaction was too instinctive, but I really ran the risk of falling for no reason.
"If instead there had been a child or older person in my place, they would surely have ended up beneath the car,” he said, “I am disappointed and disgusted by the reaction of the driver, but cyclists need to be respected.”
He asked the motorist why he had undertaken such a risky manoeuvre, which led to an altercation in which there was a bit of pushing and shoving on both sides.
Another motorist aged around 35 then stopped, and without even having seen the incident immediately took the other driver’s part, according to Ballan, at which point the one who had hit him got back in his car and drove away.
"I carried on with my ride, but this episode shook me up,” continued Ballan. There was no reason for such behaviour.”
“Unfortunately it’s not the first time it’s happened to a cyclist but in my case it was just a gratuitous act given there was no-one else on the road.”
Referring to the Codice della Strada, Italy’s equivalent of the Highway Code, he said: “Sometimes cyclists, especially in groups, may not respect the code but that’s no reason to take it out on the first cyclist you come across.
“Cars must overtake cyclists leaving at least a metre and a half of room,” Ballan continued, adding a warning to young drivers to “be very careful because the new Codice della Strada is very strict on this issue. They risk having their driving licence taken away for five years and heavy fines.”
Finally, he addressed the motorist who had hit him.
“If your son ends up taking up cycling,” he said, “he’ll realise how stupid you were.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.