Wiggins reacts to Lopez fan fight: 'You can't take fans off the mountain ... but I sympathise'
Bradley Wiggins believes that both the fan and Miguel Angel Lopez will feel terrible after an incident that saw the rider crash and then attack the spectator during Stage 20 of the 2019 Giro d'Italia.
Speaking after the last mountain stage and penultimate day of the race, Wiggins discussed the incident that saw Lopez face potential disqualification - although he later avoided any disciplinary action.
But the former Tour de France winner and Eurosport pundit believes there is no obvious solution to avoiding such incidents happening in future.
"It’s a very difficult one," Wiggins said. "The fans are there for the race and this race wouldn’t be what it is, wouldn’t have the history it has, without the fans. They line those routes, they make the atmosphere, it’s what creates these historic days. If there were no spectators on the road it would be boring and would take an element away from the race.
" It’s impossible to cut it out and barriers create their own problems. This is quite a rare thing actually, it doesn’t happen all the time. Lopez reacted in a way that nobody really agrees with, but I can sympathise with him in that particular moment – it’s a bit like driving down the motorway and seeing someone driving erratically, you have to monitor all that around you. But you have to accept that they’re part of the race, part of the fabric of the race."
"That guy will feel terrible on the floor about what happened. He got smacked in the face which he didn’t deserve, and Lopez will feel stupid now as well. Let’s bring them together, film them talking, and show that you can have confrontations but let’s show the end of it that you can make up and move on. We’re good at not showing the next part."
Wiggins also explained what goes through a rider's mind when cycling up a climb packed with spectators, describing how the fan behaviour chances the racing conditions so much:
"When you are riding up those climbs, you are scanning the roadside because you’re looking for the line and spectators may change the race line of a natural corner.
"When spectators are standing still it’s easy to gauge where the route is, what angle they’re making. When they’ve got flags and things that’s a bit of a nightmare because it distorts what’s behind it and things like that get caught in wheels, forks and handlebars.
" But a moving obstacle is hard, because you never know where the obstacle is going to go – is it going to shorten the road in a sec. It’s the people that are running, dressed as Mr Bean or things like, they’re the danger I think. They’re moving slower than you are, but when you’re riding you don’t know where that’s going to go – that unpredictable and I think that’s the problem there. "
"That’s what caused this crash, that’s what caused most such crashes. Maybe we should ban running? Ban alcohol on these climbs? I don’t know – if you want a debate on it let’s have a look.
"It’s one of those things, what do you do, do you take all the spectators off the mountain? Half of them are half-drunk up there, they’re making a day out of it – BBQs and this that and the other. They can be forgiven for forgetting themselves a little bit, that’s what they’ve been up there all day.
" It’s the running where the problems start to come. We can’t take the fans off the side of the mountain because that’s what makes this sport so special. You can’t put barriers all the way up. We have to accept that it’s part and parcel of the sport. But I can sympathise with Lopez, that would be your initial reaction – we can’t berate him now. He can be forgiven, maybe say ‘next time mate don’t do that’. But what about the guy laying on the floor who’s lost his hat and is now the victim."
Eurosport's Orla Chennaoui posed the balance between the two responses to the incident, saying: "There will be those defending Lopez for trying to defend his race, there will be those saying there is no justification for any kind of violence…"
And Wiggins responded, saying: "I’m not saying there’s a justification, but in that particular moment, where his heart-rate is at whatever it is and he’s had four or five hours on the bike, we can maybe forgive him for his mindset at that time.
"That guy now, sitting on the floor, he will feel terrible in hindsight. It happened on Alpe d’Huez in 1999 – the spectator went to the hotel in the evening and I’m sure this spectator will also want to go and apologise to Lopez."
Chennaoui had her own say on the incident in question, saying:
" Sometimes these fans get a little bit over-exuberant, a little bit overexcited. They’ve been waiting at the top of that mountain all day long for their heroes to come, and the moment they come they maybe lose the run of themselves a little bit. We can understand Lopez, the adrenaline is pumping – but I’m not sure anything really justifies punching a man on the ground, that’s my interpretation."
And Brian Smith believes that there should be more education of fans:
" We’re talking about a minority; it doesn’t happen often. When you think about the millions who come out to the roadside to watch it – I would take my family to watch it – but there are just idiots in all walks of life. I’m not saying he’s an idiot… a couple of drinks, the excitement, he just got carried away a little bit. The Tour de France organisers put educational videos out there, but nobody watches it. They’re trying to do something. Even in sprint finishes when you see the flags get caught in the handlebars… I don’t think we’ve got the right solutions. You can’t ban people from going up finishing climbs like that as well, so what do you do?"
Meanwhile GCN's Simon Richardson also sympathises with the reaction of Lopez:
" It’s a travesty that these things happen. You can kind of understand it with the volume of spectators on the roadside and how long they’ve been waiting. But to actually see their excitement spill into the peloton and cause a crash like that is awful. I can sympathise with the outburst of emotion from Lopez like that. In the cold light of day an outburst like that looks awful, it is awful, but when you’re riding at full gas and perhaps your whole season has been based around this… I really feel for the guy."
The Giro d'Italia concludes on Sunday 2nd June.