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Why did Geoff Kabush get punched?

A fist-throwing incident on the Trans-Cascadia podium has had many raising eyebrows

Geoff Kabush

In what PinkBike described as your typical winners’ podium moment at the Trans-Cascadia, things seemed to be according to form. Flashing camera bulbs, handshakes, smiles, champagne; held triumphantly in Geoff Kabush’s hand, the bottle was the usual trophy of race-day triumph, with smiles unbroken as the cameras kept rolling.

Then, unexpectedly, came the hit.

Watching the Instagram footage of the incident, it comes out of nowhere. Suddenly, Brian Lopes—present on the podium along with Chris Johnston, one of the day’s top-three finishers—throws a sudden right cross that connects hard with Kabush’s chest. Jones, pivoting, had clearly put enough weight into it that it wasn’t just a friendly slug. Off-camera, you can hear someone say, “Cheers, buddy. Great having you here.”

So, just what, exactly, happened to cause such a bizarre moment between two top riders on the podium of one of the Pacific Northwest’s top events? PinkBike spoke to both athletes to get to the bottom of it.

“I can give you the facts,” Kabush said. Familiar with Lopes for two decades, going back to 1997, Kabush said, “It was the last night celebration at dinner and we were having some fun. I took the win, so I was pretty excited. We had a little presentation in the dining tent and I sprayed some champagne. Lopes being Lopes, I wanted to get him with some champagne.” Lopes, however, wasn’t entirely on board with Kabush’s intentions, telling the Courtenay, B.C. athlete that he would punch him in the face if he tried anything on the podium.

After Kabush reportedly chased Lopes around the hotel with the champagne bottle, the latter returning to his hotel room, the athletes eventually came out to the parking lot, where the podium photo op happened. “So, we proceeded to take the podium photo,” Kabush said. “I still had the champagne bottle in my hand.” Dumping a little on Lopes’s hat, the rest is Instagram history.

“I was hoping to help loosen up Brian,” he said, “but I think at this point Brian’s not going to change. I’m sure I’ll see him again and it’ll all be fine.”

Observers saw the moment as somewhat unsportsmanlike on Lopes’s part, to put it mildly. But for his part, Lopes offered another take on the sudden, fist-throwing incident.

The initial spraying, Lopes said, “Got [him] pretty good.” He returned back to his hotel room to change out of his sopping, champagne-soaked clothes into his last clean set, then downloaded some GoPro footage. After being told that the photo op was about to happen, he asked for the other guys not to spray him, since he was in his last clean set of clothing, and the California-based athlete would be on a plane the next day.

Clearly, that didn’t happen.

Walking down to the parking lot, he saw Kabush standing with the champagne bottle and a mischievous look on his face. “Dude,” Lopes said, “don’t spray me. I’m in my last set of clothes.” Re-stating it with some expletives interspersed, Lopes made his wishes doubly clear. He had a feeling Kabush was up to something, he told PinkBike. “Dude, don’t do it,” he repeated. “Geoff, I’m serious. Don’t do it.”

Suddenly, as cameras recorded the moment, Lopes found himself with champagne streaming down the back of his neck, soaking what he said was his last set of clean, pre-flight clothes. He then hauled off and threw the punch, telling PinkBike that he had given Kabush ample warning. “From the time I walked out there, I warned him three or four times not to do it and I even told him what I would do if he got me wet again,” Lopes said. “And, he’s the one who provoked me to do it.”

“I mean, it’s not like I got mad at Geoff for spraying me with champagne the first time,” Lopes said, recalling the incident with his long-time fellow competitor. “I did try to run, but he still got me and it is what it is.”

Check the full interview with both athletes here.