VITTEL, France (AFP) – World champion Peter Sagan was sensationally kicked off the Tour de France for elbowing Mark Cavendish in a hectic sprint finish to Tuesday’s (July 4) fourth stage.
British sprint great Cavendish was taken to hospital by ambulance with shoulder and finger injuries after crashing to the ground when Sagan shoved him into the metal safety barriers 100 metres from the finish of the 207.5km stage from Mondorf-les-Bains to Vittel.
“We’ve decided to disqualify Peter Sagan from the Tour de France 2017 as he endangered some of his colleagues seriously in the final metres of the sprint which happened in Vittel,” said the president of the race commission, Philippe Marien.
“We will apply article 12.104 of the rules of the UCI... in which case commissaires (the race jury) can decide to enforce a judgement to disqualify a rider.”
Cavendish had earlier demanded an explanation from Sagan for the elbow that could end the Briton’s Tour – he previously crashed out of the 2014 Tour with a broken collarbone.
“In terms of pain-wise, I’ve done my shoulder twice before and I’m in more pain now than I was for one of my shoulders – that doesn’t make me too optimistic, just on feeling, but I’m not a doctor,” he said.
Cavendish, 31, was following the wheel of eventual stage winner Arnaud Demare of France when Sagan jutted out an elbow, knocking the Briton into the barriers where he came crashing down to the ground.
The 30-time Tour stage winner was treated by medical staff before crossing the finish line with a bloodied and bandaged hand.
When he left for hospital, he was also wearing a sling.
“I’m ok, I’m in a little bit of pain, I’ll go for some more tests now, we’ll see,” Cavendish told a scrum of reporters outside his Dimension Data team’s bus.
Cavendish said he would start Wednesday’s fifth stage if to do so wouldn’t make his injuries “worse”.
Although Sagan had come to speak to him at his bus after the stage, Cavendish said he still wanted an explanation about the elbow.
“I was massively grateful that Peter came directly after the finish to see me – I have a good relationship with Peter.
“Even with the movement to the right, obviously I wouldn’t be happy but that’s racing. But I was a little bit confused with the elbow, that’s something I’d like to speak to him about.” Dimension’s doctor Adrian Rotunno could not immediately confirm whether Cavendish would be fit to start Wednesday’s stage.
“The radiology (X-ray) doesn’t reveal any dislocations or fractures but we need to see the further imaging just to exclude any more subtle injuries,” he said.
“Apart from a few abrasions and some lacerations he’s doing fine.” Sagan’s bodyguard told journalists that the world champion had been destabilised in the sprint finish by another rider.
“Someone touched his back wheel. He was close to losing his balance so he put out his arm to stop himself from falling down,” the bodyguard said.
'NOWHERE TO GO'
Cavendish’s was the second of two crashes in the final kilometre as riders jostled for position to contest the sprint finish.
Race leader Geraint Thomas was taken down in the first crash, along with around a dozen riders, but he emerged unhurt.
“The crash happened right in front of me, I had nowhere to go really,” said Thomas.
It was the second time in three stages that Thomas had been caught up in a crash.
“It’s ok, both times I managed to take off quite a bit of speed,” he added.
“I’m used to crashing, so it’s fine, I’m all ok.” In all the furore of another bunch pile-up, French champion Demare’s achievement of becoming the first Frenchman to win a Tour stage in a sprint finish since 2006 was almost lost.
“It’s amazing, beating all the best sprinters like that at the Tour de France is something I’d hoped for, for a long time,” said Demare.
His win allowed him to claim the sprinters’ green jersey from German Marcel Kittel, winner of Sunday’s second stage but who was held up by the first crash and unable to contest the sprint.
With Slovak Sagan disqualified, Norway’s Alexander Kristoff came second and Greipel third.
Reigning champion Chris Froome retained second place, 12 seconds behind his Sky team-mate Thomas, with Australian Michael Matthews third on the same time as Froome.