What did Mohorič’s zipped lips mean?

Bahrain Victorious has been in the spotlight since their team hotel was searched by the police on Wednesday.

by Abby Mickey

photography by Cor Vos

When Matej Mohorič won stage 19 of the Tour de France he didn’t throw both arms in the air in celebration, at least not immediately. He held one finger to his lips then zipped them closed, a statement he says was directed towards the naysayers and the cycling rumour mill, just days after his team’s hotel was raided by French police.

“It was just a sign to show to people that question our performance to be mindful that we are making huge sacrifices with our work, with our nutrition, with our training plans, with our race plans, with all the time we spend away from home in training camps,” Mohorič said. “We all work hard, [the Tour de France] is the biggest race in the world, to come here ready. We performed at a good level this year, and we also performed at a good level in the past.”

On Wednesday, two days before Mohorič scored his second stage victory at the 2021 Tour de France, the French police flooded the Bahrain Victorious team hotel in Pau. They searched buses, took cell phones, but made no arrests. Prior to the start of stage 18 Mohorič told reporters he had nothing to hide.

“Obviously our integrity has been a little bit questioned with this investigation ongoing,” Mohorič told the press after his stage 19 victory. “But that brought us closer together, us riders and also the team, and we were even more determined to prove that we have nothing to hide.”

“[The Tour] is the biggest race in the world, and today we tried to make our point that we are one of the best teams in the world, and we are on an even playing field, and we just want to do the best in this beautiful event.”

Matej Mohorič after winning Tour de France stage 19

The symbolic ‘shhh’ hand gesture was an ill-conceived victory salute, unless Mohorič was intentionally drawing a connection one of cycling’s most notorious signs of omerta, the agreement within the pro peloton to never speak of doping. The zipped lips motion was the same used by Lance Armstrong in 2004 after he chased Filippo Simeoni out of the day’s breakaway. Simeoni had recently testified against Michele Ferrari, Armstrong’s dope doctor.

But Mohorič claims he was trying to quiet those throwing shade at himself and his team, and that the gesture meant nothing more.

“We collaborated fully with the police, and we’re here to focus on the bike race,” Mohorič said.

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