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UPDATE: Mark Cavendish has abandoned the Tour de France after secondary scans revealed a fracture in his right shoulder. Peter Sagan’s Bora-hansgrohe team has appealed the decision to eject the world champion from the race. Read more here.
VITTEL, France (CT) – World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) has been ejected from the 2017 Tour de France after being involved in an incident that saw Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) crash heavily at the end of stage 4.
Cavendish tried to pass Sagan on the far right-hand-side of the road but the pair made contact and Cavendish struck the barriers at speed before crashing to the ground. Replays of the incident show Sagan raising his right elbow in the moments before Cavendish hit the barriers.
Dimension Data lodged a complaint “within seconds” of the stage finishing, according to sports director Roger Hammond.
“As far as I was concerned, that was as clear as day,” Hammond told CyclingTips. “Mark was coming with speed. Sagan sees him there, leans into him. And then when he doesn’t shut the door enough, he elbows him into the barriers. It is as simple as that. He uses his elbow to push him into the barriers.
“That’s not closing the door, that is violence towards his fellow competitor.”
Sagan visited the Dimension Data bus to apologise for the incident, while Hammond and Dimension Data performance manager Rolf Aldag took to Twitter to call for Sagan’s disqualification.
Those calls were echoed by independent observers, including former sprinter Robbie McEwen who won 12 stages of the Tour and three green jerseys:
McEwen later posted a clarification:
Eventually, some 90 minutes after the stage concluded, the Tour’s jury president Philippe Marien told the gathered press that Sagan had been ejected from the Tour for an “irregular sprint”, citing article 12.1.040/10.2.2 of the UCI’s regulations document. Sagan was also fined 200 Swiss Francs (AU$270; US$207).
In the moments after the crash, Cavendish had taken some time to get up and when he did he was holding his right arm. Dimension Data team doctor Dr Adrian Rotunno told the press later that X-rays taken at the finish showed no significant injuries, but that further tests would be required.
“Initial radiology doesn’t reveal any dislocations or fractures but we need to send him for further imaging just to exclude any more subtle injuries, apart from a few abrasions and some lacerations,” he said.
Speaking outside the medical truck, Cavendish said he’d try to continue on tomorrow, if it was possible, and if further scans didn’t reveal significant damage.
“I think if it doesn’t show anything, I’ll try, but 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,” Cavendish said. “That doesn’t make me too optimistic just on feeling, but I’m not a doctor.
“If I can’t make it worse, then I’ll see. I’m in a bit of pain, but if I’ve got no movement then ultimately I don’t want to be a risk to the other bike riders as well. If I can’t pull my bars, if I can’t brake with this finger … I know some other guys would try, but I don’t want to be a hazard to the other guys as well.”
Earlier, Cavendish had expressed his confusion at the tactics used by Sagan in the sprint.
“I get on with Peter well but I don’t get it … if he came across it’s one thing, but the elbow… I’m not a fan of him putting his elbow in like that,” the Manxman said. “I get on with Peter, a crash is a crash, but I’d just like to know about the elbow.”
Outside the media truck, Cavendish gave his thoughts on Sagan’s disqualification.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I don’t know. The jury will do what they do,” he said. “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 is something I would like to speak to him about.
“But in terms of the disqualification, that’s the jury’s decision.”
John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates) weren’t able to avoid Cavendish when he crashed, and both riders went down as well. Degenkolb went for scans after the stage, but he too has avoided serious injury.
“I was just coming back to the front, to the main group for the sprint, and then suddenly Cav was in front of me and I couldn’t avoid … to jump over him,” Degenkolb said. “When I jumped over I went fully over the handlebar and had a pretty bad crash.
“In the end, luckily there’s nothing broken, no fractures, but still [I have a] pretty painful right shoulder and we will see what’s going on tomorrow, how I can be on the bike. I will give everything and hope to continue of course.”
The stage was eventually won by Frenchman Arnaud Demare (FDJ) after avoiding both the crash that brought down Cavendish, and a crash some 600 metres from the finish.
Demare was asked in his press conference what he made of the final sprint.
“We knew it would be a sprint with a lot of jostling for position because all the sprinters were fresh — today was very slow and it was the first transition stage of the Tour,” Demare said. “For sure there would be a lot of fight at the end with a lot of riders involved.
“So with 2km leaders of the general classification were there fighting with us. At 600m to go my teammate [Jacopo] Guarnieri went down and then for the last crash I didn’t see it. I went through as best I could. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have any space to the right so I decided to go to the left.
“I was going faster than [Alexander] Kristof but my fear was always to crash. I had to be at the front but the crash was also at the front. Yeah, we knew it would be a dirty sprint anyway.”
Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), who finished third on the stage, said he was “angry about the crash of Cavendish, after the manoeuvre by Sagan.” Greipel had previously clashed with Sagan in the stage 3 intermediate sprint after the pair made contact.
“I think that sprinters should have respect for each other, which does not mean that I think Sagan meant to cause a crash today,” Greipel said after stage 4. “However, the manoeuvres that you make in a sprint should remain accountable. According to me, this was not the case today, nor during yesterday’s intermediate sprint, the jury should act against such behaviour.”