Garmin-Transitions rider Robert Hunter quickly defended himself Wednesday after awaking to claims he punched Saxo Bank’s Jakob Fuglsang on the third stage of the Tour de France.
L’Equipe newspaper reported that Hunter was seen punching Fuglsang 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 behavior going to be punished?”
Hunter admitted he punched the Dane, but said Fuglsang first lashed out at him as Hunter tried to bring his teammates to the front of the race.
“We were riding to the front, with my guys on the wheel,” said Hunter. “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 was 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 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 is prepared to get physical in its 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 said. “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.”