Wladimir Belli was having a bad enough day trying to hang onto third place as race leader Simoni put the power down to try and increase his lead over Belli’s teammate Frigo.
The screaming and barging uniformed “Simoni Hooligans” running alongside him and the leader weren’t making it any better, and as they reached a particularly pleasant 18% climb section (that’s nearly 1 in 5 in old money) he couldn’t handle it any more. One Tifosi (the Italian cycling fantatics) got a bit too personal with his screaming and Belli smacked him straight in the face with a right jab, while – to his immense credit – still keeping his climbing rythmn going. However cameras caught him and to make matters worse the fan turned out to be Simoni’s 18 year old nephew.
Although Simoni’s nephew has responded “the disqualification is unjust, I understand his reaction. You must understand the riders; at certain moments [like climbing an 18% hill] they are stressed and they can react rashly.” the race jury have expelled him, stating “We know that the rider was provoked, but we are forced to apply the regulations. That involves a fine and the immediate exclusion from the race. The gesture is inexcusable.”
Belli was thougtful the following day “I am still thinking I am placed third in the Giro, but tomorrow I can’t start. They told be that my gesture was inexcusable. I was in error, certainly. But in the last three kilometres of that climb, the tifosi were correct and the others weren’t. They made me annoyed. I was punished for an instinctive gesture.”
The fighting continues for the lead too, where Simoni turned in the time trial performance of his life to hang onto the pink jersey 17 seconds ahead of Frigo.
More details from cyclingnews.com where we scavenge most of our road racing snippets from, when we miss the Eurosport coverage.