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Is it finally time for Team Ineos to fire Gianni Moscon?

2 Mar 2020

Words: Joe Robinson

After the opening weekend of the Spring Classics, we should be discussing the racing. How Jasper Stuyven’s riding without numbers ultimately led him to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and how Kasper Asgreen proved at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne he is a genuine contender for the biggest one-day races.

But, we are not, because there was one big story from this weekend’s racing that has dominated above all else and it is a story of controversy involving a rider that has built himself quite the reputation in this field.

As the bunch rolled along at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday, there was a crash with 65km to go. No different to usual, plenty of riders on the ground, entangled in a web of carbon and lycra.

However, as everyone picked themselves up checking their bikes and bones, television cameras caught an incident. Team Ineos rider Gianni Moscon picked up a bike and threw it in the direction of another rider. Jens Debusschere of B&B Hotels-Vital Concept, to be precise.

The bike hit Debusschere in the face, to which the Belgian remonstrated. But before he could give Moscon a piece of his mind, the Italian had disappeared, chasing the peloton up the road.

Around 15km later, word got through that Moscon had been disqualified, that the race jury had deemed his actions unacceptable. As news filtered to Moscon, television cameras again caught him causing a scene.

This time it was the 25-year-old tearing his race numbers from his jersey, ripping them up and throwing them onto the ground - an action that would later see him slapped with a €500 fine.

The race finished, the podium ceremony was held and Team Ineos sports director Gabriel Rasch was put in front of a television screen to be shown his rider’s actions by race officials.

Having seen the evidence of Moscon’s disqualification, Rasch was questioned by the Cycling Podcast on whether he thought the punishment was justified. Rasch said: ‘I agree with the decision – it’s not something that should happen. It’s not acceptable, what happened.’

However, when asked what this means for Moscon going forward, Rasch's response was, perhaps, quite surprising.

‘We have to speak to him now and it’s something we’re working on and have to continue working on, definitely. It’s more supporting him, really, and doing the right things so it doesn’t happen again, but you never have any guarantees,’ said Rasch.

‘It’s just something that shouldn’t happen really, something we need to prevent from happening again.’

The elephant in the room here is that Moscon is a serial offender. In what’s been a relatively short career as a professional bike racer, the Italian has been embroiled in enough scandals to last a professional team’s lifetime.

The first scandal was arguably the most serious. At the 2017 Tour de Romandie, just a few weeks after a breakthrough fifth at Paris-Roubaix, the young Italian was being accused of racially abusing FDJ rider Kevin Reza - who is black. This resulted in a six-week ban, a written letter of apology and a warning from Team Sky that any further incidents would result in the sack.

How someone can still be in a job after such an incident is perhaps an indictment of the direction society has swerved in recent years.

Fast forward to the autumn and Moscon was being booted from the World Championships for holding on to a team car, an incident more stupid than harmful. But then the controversy continued.

At Tre Valli Varesine, FDJ’s Sebastien Reichenbach hit the floor in a crash that ended his season. The Swiss rider claimed it was not an accident, however, and that Moscon had deliberately caused the crash as response to an ongoing feud stemming from the Reza incident earlier that season.

Eventually, Moscon was cleared albeit due to lack of evidence, while Team Sky openly supported their rider.

Then came the 2018 Tour de France. An effective domestique for the eventual winner Geraint Thomas, Moscon's race was cut short after television cameras caught him punching Fortuneo-Samsic rider Elie Gesbert on Stage 15.

With the disqualification, team manager Dave Brailsford said, 'we will continue to give him the help and support he needs to learn, develop and move forward from this.’ Sound familiar?

Now, 18 months or so on, Team Ineos are in the same position Moscon has put them in on multiple occasions. Whether to stand by their man or cut ties with a rider who is, ultimately, damaging the team’s image and brand repeatedly.

What Team Ineos should do seems quite obvious. They should issue a statement stating that repeat misconduct is unacceptable, and that Moscon’s actions will not be tolerated to the point where his contract will be terminated.

And with that, Moscon should be forced into a period of introspection. After all, at 25 years old, he is young enough to go, educate, change and return to the professional world of cycling a different person.

Realistically, there cannot be a place for someone like Moscon in cycling, guilty of incidents of violent conduct and racial abuse, at least how he is at the moment.

He has overstepped the line on more than one occasion and shows little evidence that he will change. And if we continue to give him second chance after second chance, you’re just telling the wider world that a rider’s misconduct is merely secondary to the performances they can put out on the bike.

But that is not what will happen because Moscon is a supremely talented rider. In fact, among the best of his generation with some even saying he has the capabilities of winning all five Monuments.

He is a top 10 finisher at Paris-Roubaix, Il Lombardia, a WorldTour stage race winner and a domestique that has been part of two Tour de France-winning campaigns.

A pertinent point I saw made on social media was that the minute Team Ineos let Moscon go, another team would be at his door with a contract primed. Because, unfortunately, watts seem to count for everything in cycling, not the character of who’s pushing them.

This is not just the case with issues of misconduct. We also see it often with proven dopers being brought back into the scene with open arms because, despite their past, they can still provide a service. A service that every professional team relies on to ensure their futures.

So why should Team Ineos tear up Gianni Moscon’s contract? After all, he will only be lining up next to them at the very next race in somebody else’s kit.

Image: Team Ineos