By Daniel McMahon
In case you’ve been living under a pile of worn-out clinchers, pro cycling’s hottest rider, Slovakia’s Peter Sagan, has used the “power of social media” to offer what appears to be a sincere video apology to “podium girl” Maja Leye, whose butt he pinched at Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.
The video, posted on Sagan’s Facebook page on Monday, had about 3,500 likes and more than 1,000 shares the first day it went up.
Sagan’s performance in the video, to me anyway, feels forced, as if it came only after his Cannondale team pressured him to do it after all the backlash to his inappropriate grab, which I can only assume they did.
It seems weird that the team’s PR didn’t make Sagan put on a nice, collared shirt and look a little less put out by the task. The production has a so-called hostage-video quality to it.
But maybe that was the point.
Since then, Leye has said via Twitter that she accepts Sagan’s apology.
The story made headlines on some of the largest mainstream news websites, including a stint on the home page of Yahoo!.
It was a bizarre and disappointing end to an otherwise highly successful early-season run by Sagan and Cannondale. The team won big races, including Strade Bianche and Gent-Wevelgem, and Sagan finished on the podium at Milan–San Remo, Tour of Flanders, and E3 Harelbeke.
But now it seems as if Sagan and Cannondale will be remembered for “the butt pinch” at Flanders. At least for a while.
Clearly the team wants to put this debacle behind them and look forward to the rest of the season, but the young hotshot is going to have to win back the fans he’s pissed off.
I don’t excuse Sagan’s behavior just because he’s 23, but then again he is 23 and humans do stupid things all the time. He should have known better, but my sense is, having met Sagan a few times and seen him in countless interviews, that he does regret this and will try to redeem himself in the eyes of those he’s let down.
As some have pointed out, the incident once again raises questions about why we still have podium girls anyway.