Belgian rider slapped with 25 day ban for hitting rival in the head

23-year-old Maxim Van Gils lashed out at Greek rider Giogios Bouglas as duo crossed finish line

Maxim van Gils
Van Gils in action at the 2023 Tour de France
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lotto-Dstny’s Maxim Van Gils has been hit with a 25 day ban from competition by the UCI after he slapped another rider on the back of the head at the Japan Cup Criterium in October.  

The 23-year-old Belgian rider was caught on camera slapping Greek rider Georgios Bouglas on the back of his helmet as the two riders crossed the finish line. 

At the time, Van Gils issued a statement in which he suggested his violent behaviour was due to the “dangerous” behaviour of Bouglas. 

“It was a reaction in the heat of the moment, but a wrong one and I should not have punched him and kept my hands on the handlebars,” Van Gils said in a statement released by his team. 

“I accept the penalty of the UCI and I apologise for what I did,” Van Gils continued. “This is also an important lesson for the future to keep myself calm in situations like this and to react in a proper way after the race."

Van Gils finished eighth in the race, two places behind Bouglas, in Utsunomiya, a city near Tokyo. 

“We sincerely regret the behaviour of our rider Maxim Van Gils in the Japan Cup Criterium,” added a spokesperson for Lotto-Dstny in the statement released from Van Gils. “Maxim and his team want to apologise for his gesture at the end of the race.”

A statement from the UCI released on Monday afternoon explained that Van Gils’ 25 day suspension will come into force from 20 January 2024. 

“The safety of riders as well as people in the race convoy and on the roadside is a priority for the UCI,” the statement read. 

“It therefore cannot tolerate conduct that compromises safety at competitions on its International Calendar and reminds all its stakeholders of the need to comply with its Regulations or face disciplinary action.”

Van Gils is not the first rider to be banned by the UCI for violent conduct. 

Gianni Moscon was handed a five-week suspension by the world governing body after he punched French rider Elie Gesbert close to the start of stage 15 of the 2018 Tour de France

Moscon was riding for Team Sky at the time. 

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