Highly-rated Slovakian cyclist Peter Sagan was accused of sexism and harassment after he was pictured pinching the bottom of a podium girl after the Tour of Flanders.
Sagan, 23, smirked towards the camera as he grabbed the bottom of a blonde hostess, one of two girls giving congratulatory kisses to race winner Fabian Cancellara.
His actions caused an out-pouring of anger on Twitter.
"Shame that Peter Sagan has so much class on a bike and so very little off it," wrote British cyclist Michael Hutchinson on Twitter.
Was not my intention todisrespect women today on the podium. Just a joke, sorry if someone was disturbed about it.— Peter Sagan (@petosagan) March 31, 2013
Later, he added: "Im a little surprised that probably 50% of the Sagan-ass-grabbing-gate replies I've got have been pro Sagan. (Maybe I shouldn't be.)."Sagan later took to Twitter to apologise for the incident.
"Was not my intention to disrespect women today on the podium. Just a joke, sorry if someone was disturbed about it," he wrote.
Earlier this year, Cycling Central editor Philip Gomes wrote a piece on why he thought it was time podium girls were made a thing of the past in cycling.
"While podium girls are a lovely, ornamental sideshow to the racing, the increasing presence of women in the sport through improved racing conditions, performance and governance means that it’s time to make that presence a more contemporary one," Gomes wrote at the time.
Cycling author Matt Rendell agreed in the wake of Sagan's actions.
Sagan's carefully thought-out piece of theatrical satire brilliantly focused attention on the absurdity of stlll having podium girls in 2013— Matt Rendell (@mrendell) March 31, 2013
What did you think of Sagan's cheeky gesture? Tell us in the comments below.