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Philippe Gilbert has claimed he was assaulted by a drunk driving, but court verdicts paint a different picture of what really happened (Photo: Gautier Demouveaux-ASO)

Philippe Gilbert, the former road race world champion, has been convicted of assault and battery over a training ride incident seven years ago, when his then team claimed he had been attacked.

The now retired pro fractured his finger during the roadside skirmish with a motorist. The case has now been concluded in the courts in Belgium, with Gilbert convicted, though the driver was also convicted, as was Gilbert’s training partner, Loïc Vliegen.

The two riders – both team mates at the BMC Racing at the time – were close-passed by a motorist in Theux, Belgium, in April, 2016, while training on the course of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The riders then caught up with the driver in traffic, remonstrated with him over his driving, with a scuffle ensuing, during which Gilbert fractured his finger.

Vliegen was thrown to his left when the driver close-passed the riders and the driver has been found guilty of deliberately obstructing traffic over that part of the incident, according to a report in Het Nieuwsblad.

All three – the driver and the two cyclists – were also found guilty of assault and battery for the scuffle that broke out when the cyclists caught up with the vehicle in traffic a short time later.

The Belgian media reports the verdicts were “ordinary guilty”, and were on the lower end of the scale. Gilbert had signaled his intent to sue the driver for €450,000 in damages.

Instead, he was awarded €500 and Vliegen was awarded €1,000. Both of the cyclists were also ordered to pay the driver and a passenger in the vehicle a sum of €1, which is essentially a token amount.

A statement issued by BMC Racing at the time stated: “Gilbert was training with Loïc Vliegen in Belgium when the two riders were targeted by two intoxicated men in a car.

“One of the men stepped out of the car and acted aggressively towards Vliegen and Gilbert, fracturing Gilbert’s middle finger on his left hand in the process.”

However, at the time the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper reported what it said was information from the police in Verviers stating neither of the men with whom the riders clashed were drunk. There was no mention during the court process of the men being intoxicated.

The riders were out training on the Liège-Bastogne-Liège course and were near Theux when the incident took place. Gilbert did not race again after the incident for six weeks.

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