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Monday 5 December 2016

African rider stops racist's Tour expulsion

An Eritrean rider racially abused in the peloton intervened to stop the perpetrator from being expelled from the Tour of Austria.

MTN-Qhubeka, the first African team to ride at the Tour de France, claimed Natnael Berhane was called a "n*****" on Wednesday by Branislau Samoilau, a Belarusian who rides for the CCC Sprandi Polkowice team.

Officials from the Polish squad will meet after the Tour of Austria to determine the punishment.

The UCI, cycling's world governing body, has confirmed the abuse was racist.

The UCI said in a statement: "The Commissaires' Jury (at the Tour of Austria) has investigated this matter and has stressed that any racist abuse is wholly unacceptable.

"The rider has offered to donate one month's salary to the team's foundation and all parties were satisfied with this action. Racist abuse in what ever form will not be tolerated by the UCI."

Douglas Ryder, the MTN-Qhubeka team principal, says Berhane did not wish for further sanction, although it is unclear how much power the UCI could wield within its own regulations, which may need to be amended after an unprecedented case.

"The UCI fined the rider and went to Natnael and said, 'would you like us to pull him out of the race?' Natnael said, 'no, he apologised, I accept the apology. He can carry on racing'," Ryder told Press Association Sport.

"Racism is something that's completely unacceptable, but it happens in the minority. This is the first incident this year and I can't remember an incident last year.

"I'm hoping it's isolated and it was by an individual who is young, doesn't know what he's saying, was in the heat of the moment for whatever reason."

South Africa squad MTN-Qhubeka is beginning to make an impact on major races and Daniel Teklehaimanot claimed the Tour de France's King of the Mountains polka dot jersey on Thursday and retained it on Friday's seventh stage.

Ryder says MTN-Qhubeka have faced no racial abuse at their first participation in cycling's biggest race, but that every team faces hostility.

"No, nothing in the Tour de France," he added.

"We've had massive support from the team owners, from the riders.

"The globalisation of the sport is a good thing and I think the Tour de France has been amazing in that.

"There's been bullying in the peloton before, but that's across every team; that's not specifically for us. It just happens.

"If this happened all the time the riders wouldn't want to be here, because it would be a hostile and uncomfortable place to be.

"Nobody wants to be an environment like that. You want to be respected, you want to be valued. Everybody works hard.

"It saddens us in a big way. It's happened, let's move on."

ends

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