Tour de France: Sagan disqualified over crash that ends Cavendish’s race
British sprinter suffered fractured shoulder blade after smashing into barriers close to finish
Peter Sagan elbows Mark Cavendish into the railings during thre sprint finish to stage four of the Tour de France. Sagan was disqualified from the tour for his actions. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA
The world champion, Peter Sagan, was thrown out of the Tour de France for a dangerous move in the sprint finish at the end of stage four that also ended Mark Cavendish’s race when he suffered a fractured shoulder blade in a horrendous crash 200 metres from the finish line.
Cavendish sustained a heavy cut to his hand and was taken to hospital for X-rays to investigate injuries to the shoulder he damaged in a similar pile-up at the end of the first stage of the Tour in Harrogate in July 2014. In a chaotic finale, the yellow jersey holder, Geraint Thomas, also fell – but to no ill effect.
On Tuesday night it was confirmed that Cavendish’s Tour was over. “I’m obviously massively disappointed to get this news about the fracture,” he said. “I feel I was in a good position to win <WC1>[the stage<WC1>] and to lose that and even having to leave the Tour, a race I have built my whole career around, is really sad.”
Cavendish’s sporting director at Dimension Data, Roger Hammond, described the move that led to Sagan’s expulsion as “a flick of the elbow which was completely outrageous”. He added: “No one comes out of it well. This is a sad, sad day for the sport, Sagan is a hero and an idol of mine but a precedent has to be set.”
Sagan was initially relegated to 115th place on the stage – last place in the lead bunch – and received the standard sanction of a 30-second time penalty but the president of the jury, Philippe Marien, said the referees applied a sterner sanction because the world champion “had put several other riders involved in the crash in danger”.
Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team announced they had officially protested about the Slovak’s expulsion. The German team said Sagan “rejected to have caused, or in any way intended to cause the crash of Mark Cavendish. ”
Sagan added: “In the sprint I didn’t know that Mark was behind me. When I was told after the finish that Mark had crashed, I went straight away to find out how he was doing. We are friends and colleagues in the peloton and crashes like that are never nice. I hope Mark recovers soon.”
In two crashes in the final kilometres involving about 20 riders, it was Cavendish who came off worst, being the first of three sprinters to hit the deck. He lay prone on the tarmac as the rest of the group passed and crossed the line several minutes after the stage winner, Arnaud Demare. Cavendish was holding his right shoulder, with his skin suit ripped from shoulder to waist, and with heavy bandaging on his right hand.
“I’m going to go and get it checked out,” he said. “I will definitely need stitches in this finger, it’s bleeding a lot. With the shoulder, it might be something to do with a previous injury, it’s sat backwards, so I’m not sure if I’ve done something to the ligament. I’m not a doctor but from the feelings, I’m not optimistic.”
It is believed that Cavendish hit the road so hard he folded the spider and the chainring of his chainset so that they were pointing backwards. Sagan was one of several riders, including Cavendish, who launched their sprints in the wake of the Norwegian Alexandr Kristoff and were accelerating to full speed with around 250m to go. Cavendish was following Demare through a gap between Sagan and the crowd barriers when the Slovak moved to his right, making contact with the Manxman.
Sagan then lifted his elbow up and Cavendish was forced into the barriers in a split second and fell heavily on his right side. “There was no reason for that elbow,” said Hammond. “As a former professional bike rider I know the way it is done.” The German John Degenkolb, who was close behind, rode over Cavendish’s body and helmet and also fell, while the Briton Ben Swift performed a somersault over Cavendish’s bike as it lay on the ground but later told the Guardian he had no injuries.
“I get on with Peter well; if he came across that’s one thing but I’m not a fan of him putting his elbow in me like that,” Cavendish said. “A crash is a crash but I would just like to know about the elbow. I have a good relationship with Peter but I would like to speak to him about it.”
The world champion apologised to Cavendish afterwards but offered no real explanation. “I didn’t know Mark was behind me, he was coming from the right side and I wanted to take the wheel of Kristoff, I think. I wanted to go on his wheel but Mark was coming pretty fast from the back. I didn’t have time to react to go left, he just came to me and then to the barriers.”
Marien, the head UCI commissaire, said: “Before the Tour de France we warned the sprinters that we would look very closely at every sprint, that is what we did today. It was not an easy decision, but this is the beginning of the Tour and now is the moment to set our boundaries. And that is what we did today. It was not about Sagan, but about the act the rider made. What happens here, 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 won’t matter.”