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January 30, 2019
Photography by Cor Vos
Deceuninck-Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere has threatened to pull his entire team out of the Vuelta a San Juan after the race ejected rider Iljo Keisse for disrespectful behaviour.
“If it was up to me, the whole team would leave the Vuelta a San Juan,” Lefevere told Het Laatste Nieuws. “We are reviewing the UCI regulations, then we will quickly decide whether we will start or not.”
The incident in question, which occurred last Friday, saw Keisse stand behind an 18-year-old woman in a cafe and feign a sexual act as a photo was taken. The woman, who worked as a waitress in the cafe and has not been named, has claimed that Keisse brushed his genitals against her, which Keisse has denied. She filed a police complaint with the San Juan police, and Keisse was fined 3000 pesos (€70).
Keisse’s teammates, Julian Alaphilippe and Remco Evenepoel, are currently first and third place in the race, respectively.
After a local news outlet reported the story, Keisse publicly apologized to both the woman and the race. “I want to apologise to everyone here, the Argentinian people, everyone who feels offended,” he said. “The race organiser has been put in difficulty because of this. And to my team. It was a really stupid thing to do. I wish I could turn back time, but I can’t.”
The race organizer was indeed put in difficulty, and it requested that Keisse’s team take action against the Belgian. The team demurred, and so the race took action on its own following the stage 3 time trial on Tuesday. Keisse, it announced, was no longer welcome at the race.
A statement from a team press officer called the act “a joke, one which he shouldn’t have made, but one that doesn’t go beyond a warning or a fine.” Lefevere reacted angrily to the disqualification of his rider, and accused the woman of seeking compensation.
“Of course, I am not happy with the pose of Iljo,” he said. “It was wrong, and he knows that himself. But he paid a €70 fine and the police closed the case. And yet, that woman continues to make something of it. She will want money, right?”
The woman responded via a story in Marca