Italian Antonio Tiberi, who ‘parted ways’ with his former Trek-Segafredo squad in April after a three-month suspension for shooting a cat, has been confirmed as a new mid-season signing for Bahrain Victorious.
Tiberi, 21, was suspended in February by Trek-Segafredo after it emerged that he had killed the cat last June, near his home in San Marino, with an air rifle.
Trek-Segafredo then announced in late April that the rider and squad had “mutually agreed to part ways, effective immediately, after the rider’s actions during his suspension did not meet our criteria for a return to competition.”
The former Junior World TT Champion is now expected to start racing again, this time in Bahrain Victorious colours, in the Tour de Suisse on June 11.
Speaking in a press release, Bahrain Victorious team manager Milan Ezren said “Antonio joining the team is a really positive move, both for us and for him. He is a super-talented kid who we believe will thrive in this environment, where we want to ride not only to win, but also to inspire the next generation.”
“He is clearly a talented rider, and can achieve great things in the sport, but just as important for us is his personal growth and education. Antonio has made some mistakes, but he realises that, and our focus on discipline, character building & guidance will help him on a path to long-term success both on and off the bike.”
Tiberi, 21, turned pro in 2020 with the Italian Continental squad Colpack prior to joining Trek-Segafredo at the end of that year. This season he had made a promising start, picking up eighth overall in the Santos Tour Down Under and seventh in the UAE Tour.
However, news then broke in February that after he had received a 4,000 euro fine for shooting the cat, which belonged to San Marino’s Minister of Tourism and former Head of State, Pedini Amati, he had been suspended by his team.
At the time Tiberi issued a statement expressing deep regret for his actions, which he called “tremendously stupid and irresponsible.”
“My intention was simply to measure the weapon’s shooting range, so I was targeting a no parking sign,” Tiberi said, according to Il Corriere della Sera.
“I also admit that I (just as foolishly and unconsciously) tried to shoot a cat. And to my surprise, I actually shot it. I had no intention of killing the animal. In fact, I was convinced the weapon was non-lethal.”
Tiberi confessed the crime when questioned by police in November, but Pedini Amati then argued the punishment – a €4,000 fine and the confiscation of the air rifle – was too light, maintaining that the rider should also have had his residency revoked.
“The cat wasn’t bothering anyone,” Amati said according to Il Corriere.
“It had been with us for a long time. My three-year-old daughter Lucia adored it. You can’t kill a pet and get away with a €4,000 fine. I appreciated that the guy admitted the fact. That said, we don’t need to give these people residency.”
It has not yet emerged if Tiberi is still a resident of San Marino.
Speaking in the same press release that confirmed his signing with Bahrain Victorious, Tiberi himself referred somewhat euphemistically to his suspension and the cat-shooting incident as “an enforced stop” and “the mistake made in the past” but said he was looking forward to moving ahead with a new squad.
“I’m delighted to start a new chapter in my career with Team Bahrain Victorious from both a performance aspect and a human perspective. Looking from the outside, it has always seemed like a well-organized and solid team, so I didn’t hesitate when I received the offer.”
“I already know some Italian staff members and riders, and everybody in the group has welcomed me warmly. With the help of this team, I will demonstrate that I learned from the mistake made in the past.”
“I started my 2023 season well, but after an enforced stop, maybe I will suffer a bit in picking up the pace. I want to come back racing so badly, so I’m training at altitude to prepare for my return on Swiss roads next week.”
“It’s a great challenge, and I want to repay the confidence of the people who gave me this opportunity in the best possible way. It will be a path that will help me be a better cyclist and a better man.”