Tour Down Under chief commissaire Michael Robb described the headbutt by Italian Elia Rigotto which put Australian cyclist Mathew Hayman out of the race Friday as the most vicious he had seen in a long time.
Rigotto knocked Hayman off his bike with 300 metres (980 feet) of the 134 kilometre (80 mile) fourth stage remaining, although a teammate of the Australian said he thought it was accidental.
Hayman fractured his left shoulder and will be operated on later Friday to insert a plate and screws.
Robb was scathing of Rigotto’s riding and confirmed the Team Milram rider had been disqualified and fined 200 Swiss francs (180 US dollars).
“They were riding at approximately 60 kilometres per hour, Hayman was at the front, looked over his right shoulder to see if (Graeme) Brown was on his wheel,” Robb said. “He didn’t deviate from his line and rider number 41 (Rigotto) came past on his left-hand side and as he came level with him he very viciously struck him on his upper arm and shoulder with his head – a headbutt – very, very vicious – and of course Hayman came down.”
“It was as vicious a headbutt as I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
Robb, an international commissaire since 1991, would not say whether he thought the headbutt was intentional, but Hayman’s Rabobank teammate Brown said Rigotto had contacted him asking him to apologise on his behalf.
“He said he had his head down in the sprint and as he looked up he went into Matt’s elbow,” Brown said. “He didn’t mean it – it’s just very unfortunate. He asked me to please let him (Hayman) know he didn’t mean to do it.”
A clip posted on the SBS TV site shows the incident approximately 1’30 in. You can also have your say in the forum.
© AFP & BikeRadar 2008