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Peter Sagan was the second rider across the finish line on Wednesday’s stage 11 of the Tour de France, but the official standings list him at 85th on the day. The seven-time green jersey winner was relegated for an irregular sprint in Poitiers after shouldering Wout van Aert while squeezing between a small gap between van Aert and the barriers.
Sagan defended the maneuver after the stage.
“Today, I had the speed and, in the sprint, I tried to go on the right side. I passed one rider easily, but then it got really narrow,” he said. “I had to move to avoid the barriers and as a result, I got relegated. This cost me a lot of points but I still have not abandoned the fight for the green jersey.
In the immediate aftermath of the sprint, van Aert expressed his displeasure at the maneuver with an unmistakable hand gesture. The race jury then expressed its own displeasure by dropping Sagan to the back of the group in the official standings (while also fining van Aert for his angry display).
Van Aert called out Sagan’s decision to try to muscle past in his own post-race comments.
“I think it’s not done to do it like that, actually,” van Aert said. “In my opinion, I sprinted in a completely straight line and start completely on the right at the barriers. He just tried to create space for him and for me it’s not allowed to do that. I think it’s already dangerous enough, and I was really surprised and shocked in the moment that I felt something. I was at maximum effort, so I was really scared.”
Van Aert said that he tried to communicate with Sagan after the stage was over but that the attempt came to nothing.
“In the first moment I was so shocked and surprised that I was a bit angry. I didn’t use a very nice word to him,” van Aert said. “Afterward, I tried to say to him I didn’t like it what he was doing. The only thing that came back was other strong words. It was hard to have a conversation.”
With the race jury in apparent agreement with van Aert’s assessment of Sagan’s maneuver, the three-time world road champ now finds himself staring down a major deficit in the battle for the green jersey, which was already on Sam Bennett’s shoulders before the start of stage 11.
The next week and a half will feature a handful of intermediate stages that could see Sagan reclaiming points, but Sagan’s quest for an eighth points title will be an uphill battle from here on out.