Lotto Dstny rider Maxim Van Gils has apologised for striking fellow professional Georgios Bouglas at the end of today’s Japan Cup Criterium, an action the Belgian claimed was made in response to Bouglas’ “dangerous behaviour” during the sprint, won by Lidl-Trek’s Edward Theuns.
The incident took place just after Theuns won the sprint finish in Utsunomiya, with TV cameras clearly capturing Van Gils taking his hands off the handlebars to hit 32-year-old Greek pro Bouglas around the back of the head, before turning to berate the Matrix Powertag rider.
The 23-year-old Belgian, who finished second on stage 13 of this year’s Tour de France on the Grand Colombier after impressing during the hilly spring classics, has been fined 50 CHF and docked 10 UCI points for his post-race punch, though he retains his tenth-place finish.
— John Maguire 🇺🇦 (@velo_bristol) October 14, 2023
“We sincerely regret the behaviour of our rider Maxim Van Gils in the Japan Cup Criterium. Maxim and the team want to apologise for his gesture at the end of race,” Lotto Dstny said in a statement released shortly after the race.
However, during his own apology, Van Gils claimed that the incident was a reaction to “dangerous behaviour” from Bouglas during the 33km criterium.
Footage of the chaotic sprint finish appears to show the Greek rider taking his hands off the bars to push a Jayco-AlUla rider, who then veers across into Van Gils’ path, almost causing him to crash. However, the 23-year-old accepted that his post-race retaliation was “wrong”.
“I deeply regret what I did and I already apologised to the race jury,” Van Gils said in his statement. “They gave me a fine (50 CHF) and I will lose some UCI points.
“The gesture was a reaction on the dangerous behaviour of another rider, but I know that what I did was wrong. It was a reaction in the heat of the moment, but a wrong one and I should not have punched him and kept my hands on the handlebar.
“I accept the penalty of the UCI and I apologise for what I did. This is also an important lesson for the future to keep myself calm in situations like this and to react in a proper way after the race.”
The young Belgian’s post-sprint retaliation marks the latest in an increasingly long line of PR nightmares that have engulfed his Lotto Dstny team this season.
Last month, the long-standing squad apologised and suspended one of its sport directors following an incident at the GP Rik Van Looy in Belgium, which saw a race marshal run over after preventing the team’s car from immediately rejoining the race route at a junction.
Lotto Dstny CEO Stéphane Heulot described Carl Roes’ behaviour as “very unfortunate and unacceptable”, after the development team DS was filmed driving into the marshal, knocking him to the ground and speeding away from the corner.
A few weeks earlier, the CEO of Ridley accused Lotto Dstny of “disloyalty” after it emerged that the Belgian team was seeking to bring an early end to its 12-year partnership with the bike brand, a move which Ridley chief Jochim Aerts claimed had inflicted “reputational damage” upon the company.
And in August, the team confirmed that sports director Allan Davis had been fired after sending “inappropriate” messages to women on social media.
That decision came after road.cc spoke to a woman who received contact from Davis, the former Australian sprinter removed from Lotto Dstny’s Tour de France plans after the publication of the allegations that he had been sending unwanted messages and photos to “at least 30” women online.
Heulot was again forced into a PR firefighting mission, saying the team has its “own values and standards which we apply in our daily work and in the team”, standards that Davis had not met.
Davis apologised during the Tour de France for his “inappropriate word and actions”.
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.