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by Shane Stokes
July 6, 2017
Photography by Cor Vos
Troyes, France (CT) – Remaining dissatisfied over what it considers to be the unfair disqualification of its rider Peter Sagan from the Tour de France, the Bora-hansgrohe team is hoping that the legal route can give it some justice.
Speaking prior to the start of stage 6 in Vesoul on Thursday, team press officer Ralph Scherzer told CyclingTips that the squad had petitioned the Court of Arbitration for Sport over the matter.
“We appealed yesterday morning at the CAS because in the UCI rules, as far as we understood, there is no chance of an official appeal as the penalty was less than 200 Swiss francs,” he said. “Of course there is the possibility to go to CAS, and we hoped that CAS would decide on that case before the start [of stage 5].”
Sagan was expelled from the Tour de France on Tuesday evening after tangling with Mark Cavendish in the stage four sprint into Vittel. Cavendish crashed, fracturing his right scapula. The race jury decided that Sagan was to blame and disqualified him from the Tour.
His team lodged a protest with the jury that evening and hoped that before the start of Wednesday’s fifth stage that he would get a reprieve. Although UCI rules had blocked an official appeal, they felt that it was worth making the protest in the hope that there might be second thoughts. However that didn’t happen and the Tour moved on without him.
“Peter was ready to race. He was not far away,” Scherzer confirmed. “So we just hid him a little to give him some quiet time, but he was there. But CAS unfortunately didn’t decide before the start, so we couldn’t put him on the line. We will still wait for the decision of the CAS.” At the time of writing, the team had still not had a response to the fast-track case.
Asked if any decision against the Tour jury was purely symbolic at this point, Scherzer disagreed. Interestingly, he suggested there could be a legal argument that Sagan should be reinstated, even though he did not participate in stages 5 and 6.
“I don’t think it is just symbolic,” he said. “But I have no idea what will happen if the CAS says the decision was wrong because there were formal mistakes or anything. Because then it would mean that Peter is allowed to race.
“But how to put him in the race again…I have no idea. You would need to ask the UCI or lawyers or whatever. But officially [after such a decision], then he would be allowed to race.”
Cycling’s rules state that competitors need to complete each stage of a Grand Tour. No historic precedent for a rider to be reinstated after missing a stage comes to mind, and it would be consequently a massive story if Sagan was allowed to restart the event.
Scherzer also knows such an outcome would be highly unusual, but says the team needs to follow the process.
“Also, I cannot imagine how it would work, but Peter is still ready,” he said. “He is not on holiday anywhere or something. He is at home, which is not too far away. So we just wait for that the CAS decides, and then we take the next steps.”
Losing the world champion, a rider who had already won stage 3 and was chasing his sixth consecutive green jersey title, is a massive blow to the team and also its sponsors Bora and hansgrohe. The Tour de France is the biggest platform of the year and not having its most successful rider there will impact financially.
CAS appeal aside, might Bora-hansgrohe consider a more traditional legal route to get redress from such losses?
“I think that for sure, some people think about that,” he said. “I think the best way to do take on things from now is to do it step by step. So we did what we had to do, what was possible to try and get Peter on the line.
“The next step is to wait for the decision from the CAS, and then we can think about the next steps ahead. But for sure I wouldn’t rule it [legal action] out.”
Update: Following the publication of this story, Bora-hansgrohe has issued the following statement
The Team and Peter Sagan, represented by their counsels Prof. Dr. Rainer Cherkeh (Hannover) and Dr. Maurice Courvoisier (Walder Wyss AG, Basel), have lodged an appeal with the CAS yesterday including an urgent motion to suspend the decision of the “Commissaires Panel” taken on late July 4, 2017 and confirmed by the President of the UCI.
The Team and Peter Sagan would like to reiterate their position that Peter Sagan did not cause, let alone deliberately, the fall of Mark Cavendish on the last 200m of the fourth stage on July 4, 2017. Peter Sagan stayed on his line and could not see Mark Cavendish on the right side.
Although the UCI CYCLING REGULATIONS provide unambiguously that it is mandatory to hear a rider before any disciplinary decision is taken (Rule 12.2.006: ‘The Commissaires Panel may judge the matter only if the offending party has had a chance to defend his point of view […]’), Peter Sagan has not been given an opportunity to explain to the ‘Commissaires Panel’ his point of view.
If the motion to suspend, on which the CAS will have to decide now, is granted, Peter Sagan will immediately re-engage in the Tour and, together with the team BORA – hansgrohe, compete for a successful Tour de France 2017.