Highly-rated Slovakian cyclist Peter Sagan was accused of sexism and harassment on Sunday 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.
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.)."
Jane Aubrey, editor of Australian website cyclingnews.com, also condemned Sagan's actions.
"Anyone excusing Sagan's behaviour due to his age, needs to think again. In the workplace, it's called harassment," she tweeted.
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.