A physical fight at the American Criterium Cup race in Salt Lake City on Saturday resulted in two riders being disqualified, suspended and fined.
Following the conclusion of the race, a fight broke out between Best Buddies Racing's Michael Hernandez and L39ION of Los Angeles' Justin Williams. The physical altercation saw punches thrown and abuse shouted, with the pair subsequently disqualified, fined and suspended for 72 hours.
Hernandez received a $500 fine, while Williams needs to pay $250. USA Cycling is further investigating the incident, though, which could see the sanctions imposed on one or both of the riders become even stricter.
The fight started on the final lap in Salt Lake City, when Hernandez trailed Justin Williams' L39ION teammate, Cory Williams. Hernandez attempted to overtake Cory Williams going into the first corner, but he lost momentum through slight contact, which also forced him towards the curb.
Annoyed with the incident, Hernandez confronted Cory Williams after the race, while L39ION rider Ty Magner celebrated his win. However, Justin Williams stepped in, with a fight soon breaking out.
Hernandez said afterwards: “I was going to talk to him [Cory] and be like, ‘dude, what the heck was that?’ As Cory came up to me, his brother, Justin, sprinted up behind him, threw his bike on the barricade, and put his hand on my chest.
"I knocked his hand off my chest. I said, ‘don’t touch me.’ And that’s when he punched me. I punched him back. There were a lot of punches flying.”
L39ION of Los Angeles had had five riders in the top-five before Justin Williams' disqualification, who had come third. Cory Williams, who crossed the line in fourth, was consequently promoted to the podium.
Cory Williams later took to social media to talk about the incident, providing his version of events.
He said: "The rider who collided with me was waiting to confront us at the finish line, openly sharing with our staff that he was 'going to fight me'.
"What should have been a moment of celebration, and could have been an opportunity for him to apologise and move on, turned into us responding to his uncontrolled aggression and resulting in us defending ourselves."
L39ION of Los Angeles decided to pull both the men's and woman's teams from competition in Sunday’s second day of racing in Salt Lake Criterium - Sugarhouse Park, in order to keep their riders safe and away from aggressive behaviour.
A statement said: “Despite our efforts and success, both on and off the bike, a lack of accountability from race officials has resulted in a peloton that lacks the respect and safety expected within the professional ranks.
“In response to yesterday’s uncontrolled acts of aggression to our athletes, we’re prioritising our team’s safety and will not be participating in today’s race in Salt Lake City."
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Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.
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