SA's Hunter punches rival cyclist
South Africa's Robert Hunter said it was time to put the record straight after awaking to claims he punched Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang on the Tour de France third stage.
L'Equipe newspaper reported that Hunter was seen punching Fuglsang, a race debutant who rides for Bjarne Riis's Saxo Bank team, on one of the seven cobblestone sectors on the chaotic third stage.
The report said Hunter "has been known for his temperamental attitude on the bike for years... when is this kind of behaviour going to be punished?"
Garmin-Transitions sprinter Hunter admitted he punched the Dane, but was quick to present his side of the story.
Hunter said he was the victim of underhand tactics on the part of Fuglsang, who allegedly lashed out as Hunter tried to bring teammates on his wheel to the front of the race.
An exasperated Hunter told AFP before the start of the fourth stage: "We were riding to the front, with my guys on the wheel."
"We came to a right hand bend, I was coming into one of the cobbled sections and Mister Fuglsang decided he didn't enjoy us coming past and hit me on the ribs, with his fist."
"So that's when I turned around and hit him on the back, and that's what happened."
Saxo Bank were one of the protagonists of the third stage, the Danish outfit forcing a major selection of riders by accelerating on the fourth of seven cobblestone sectors.
It was a classic bike racing tactic on the tight cobbled roads of northern France which are notoriously unforgiving and provide little space for overtaking.
But Hunter said if Saxo Bank are prepared to get physical in their quest for success, everyone might as well pack up and go home.
"What I don't get is: just because they're riding on the front doesn't give anybody the right to think that they can just stay on the front," he added.
"It's a cobbled section, it's a race. If that's their attitude then let's just take the yellow jersey, go straight to Paris and the race is over."
"We're all here to race. Just because they're on the front trying to get on the cobbles first doesn't mean we can't try either. That's the way it is."
"And, he's got no right to put his hands on me."