The UCI jury has upheld its decision to expel world champion Peter Sagan from the Tour de France. Mark Cavendish, who was injured in the stage four incident, has praised the jury's 'courage' for kicking Sagan out.
World champion Peter Sagan is on his way home from the 2017 Tour de France after his Bora-hansgrohe team's appeal against his disqualification was rejected by the International Union of Cyclists (UCI).
The Slovak was disqualified from the Tour on Tuesday after appearing to elbow Mark Cavendish during the sprint at the climax of stage four in Vittel, sending the Briton crashing into the barriers at over 50km/h.
Cavendish, winner of 30 individual Tour stages in his career, was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a broken shoulder blade, putting an end to his own Tour participation. “I’m obviously massively disappointed to get this news about the fracture,” he on Tuesday night. “I feel I was in a good position to win [the stage] but to lose that and even having to leave the Tour, a race I have built my whole career around, is really sad.”
Speaking after leaving hospital on Wednesday morning, Cavendish welcomed the jury's decision to uphold their decision to kick Sagan out. "It takes a lot of courage to eliminate the world champion from the Tour de France," he said, before describing the aftermath of the crash: "My initial worry was my finger. It was bleeding heavily. There was just a puddle of blood on the floor. I thought 'I'm going to bleed to death here.'"
Roger Hammond, Cavendish's sporting director at Dimension Data, described Sagan's move as "a flick of the elbow which was completely dangerous. Nobody comes out of it well."
"This is a sad, sad day for the sport," he continued. "Sagan is a hero and an idol of mine but a precedent has to be set."
'I've done nothing wrong'
Sagan had hoped to see his initial ban overturned but the jury upheld their original decision. "I accept the decision of the jury but I don't agree with it," he told press on Wednesday morning. "I am sorry that Mark Cavendish fell and was injured and I wish him a speedy recovery, but I don't think I did anything wrong. It was a sprint. There have been sprints before and there will be more in future."
Chief race official Philippe Marien said the sprinters had been warned about their actions and told they would be under close scrutiny. "It was not an easy decision, but this is the beginning of the Tour and now is the moment to set our boundaries," he was quoted as saying in the British newspaper The Guardian. "It was not about Sagan, but about the act the rider made. It looks like it was on purpose and it almost looks like hitting a person. It’s not about Cavendish and Sagan, it could be anybody - the names don't matter.”
After finally crossing the line with a bloodied hand and with his arm held tight to his chest, Cavendish had stated that he and Sagan are good friends and colleagues but demanded an explication for the Slovak's use of his elbow.
Support for Sagan
Others were less understanding, André Greipel complaining: "Just because he [Sagan] wears the world champion's jersey, he thinks he can do what he wants." But the German later qualified his remarks, tweeting: "Sometimes I should watch images before I say something. Apologies to Peter Sagan as I think that decision of the judge is too hard.
Former German cyclist Marcel Wüst, winner of 12 Vuelta a Espana stages, agreed. "The punishment is far too hard," he told German broadcaster Sky. "It's like banning a Bundesliga player for the whole season for one bad foul. When you're sprinting at 60-70km/h and you feel a touch behind you, you automatically stick your elbows out."
Wednesday's fifth stage takes the remaining riders 160.5 kilometers from Vittel to La Planche des Belles Filles, where reigning champion Chris Froome won his first ever Tour stage in 2012. "It was a really memorable victory for me," said Froome, who has since won three Tours. "I'm certainly looking forward to going back there."
mf/mds (AFP, AP)