Mark Cavendish: Organisers had ‘a lot of balls’ to disqualify Sagan

British sprinter intends to return to action this season after Tour de France fall

 Mark Cavendish at the finish line on stage four of the Tour de France after being injured in a fall. Photograph:  Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Mark Cavendish at the finish line on stage four of the Tour de France after being injured in a fall. Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

 

Mark Cavendish praised the “courage” of the Tour de France commissaires after they disqualified world champion Peter Sagan for causing the crash that put the Manxman out of the race.

Cavendish was knocked into the barriers by Sagan just 120 metres from the finish of stage four in Vittel on Tuesday, but the race jury’s decision to send Sagan home sparked a furious debate.

“If I’m honest it takes a lot of courage, a lot of balls to eliminate the world champion from the Tour de France, and I commend the jury on taking a decision that wasn’t based on influences from social media or outside,” Cavendish said after attending the start of stage five to bid farewell to his Dimension Data team-mates.

Cavendish suffered a broken shoulder blade in the crash as well as injuries to his right hand, but he was clear his season is not over as he can resume indoor training immediately.

The 32-year-old had won a three-month battle with the Epstein-Barr virus to start the Tour, but said his recovery from this latest setback should be more straightforward.

“At least it doesn’t require surgery which is good,” the Team Dimension Data sprinter said.

“To be honest, at least I know I can kind of train on it, which is better than if I was ill again. I am on the turbo trainer for the next few weeks.”

It remains to be seen just how soon Cavendish could return, but there are plenty of races he might want to target, not least the Tour of Britain which will have a sprint-heavy route this September.

For now, Cavendish’s hopes of adding to his 30 career Tour stage wins – and closing in on Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 – are over for another year.

Sagan had initially been penalised 30 seconds for causing Cavendish to crash, with Yorkshireman Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates) and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) also caught in the incident.

After the race jury had reviewed the footage further, they elected to send the Slovakian home. Opinion has been divided as to whether the punishment for the popular Sagan was too harsh.

“There is always going to be a storm when it comes to me and Peter, I think people are quite polarised on us,” Cavendish added.

“How I was maybe in the past, a lot of people don’t like me and for obvious reasons a lot of people like Peter.”

But Cavendish reiterated he has no issue with Sagan, who visited the Dimension Data team bus immediately after the stage to check on his rival and then called him again later on Tuesday.

“Peter called me last night,” Cavendish said. “I didn’t get back from the hospital until gone 11.

“I had a message from Peter on my phone. We have a good relationship, we spoke on the phone last night.

“You think it was honourable that he came over and apologised, and then he called me to see how I was in the evening.

“Like I said, I have no bad feelings towards Peter.”

Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team had protested against his expulsion to no avail, and on Wednesday morning he bid farewell to the race while insisting he had done nothing wrong.

“What can I do? I can accept the decision but for sure I do not agree with them, because I think I have done nothing wrong,” he said in a statement delivered outside the team hotel in Vittel.

“It is very bad that Mark fell down, it is important he can recover well, I am sorry for that.

“As you saw it was a crazy sprint, it was not the first one like that or the last one. I wish that Mark recovers well.”

Sagan, winner of stage three on Monday, had crossed the line second behind Arnaud Demare of the FDJ team before his punishment was delivered.

The disqualification ended Sagan’s bid to win the Tour’s green jersey in the points classification for a record-equalling sixth straight year.

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