Monday 11 December 2017

Mark Cavendish appeals for end to 'vile and threatening' abuse after horror crash leads to Peter Sagan disqualification

Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line after he crashed during the sprint of the fourth stage of the Tour de France
Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line after he crashed during the sprint of the fourth stage of the Tour de France

Tom Cary

Mark Cavendish has appealed to social media users to stop sending “vile and threatening” comments to him and to his family after the 60kph-horror smash on Tuesday which forced him to pull out of the Tour de France and led to the hugely-controversial disqualification of double world champion Peter Sagan.

Speaking in a video which he posted on Twitter as he flew home from France on Wednesday night, Cavendish said he was “paying now as a 32 year-old for the petulant attitude I had as a kid”. But he added that that was no reason to take it out on his wife or children.

"Vile and threatening comments on social media to myself and my family isn't deserved and I ask you all to respect that and please don't send vile and abusive language to myself and my family.”

Earlier, Cavendish had put a brave face on his dramatic exit from the Tour. Speaking to journalists outside the Dimension Data team bus before Wednesday’s stage from Vittel to La Planche des Belles Filles, Cavendish said he harboured no ill will towards his friend Sagan, praised the Slovakian for being “a great world champion and great for the sport”, and even managed to joke that at one stage he thought he might “bleed to death” following his crash, likening the scene of the accident to an Eli Roth horror movie as he lay in a puddle of his own blood.

“My initial worry was my finger,” he recalled of the incident. “It was like an Eli Roth movie. There was a puddle of blood on the floor and I thought ‘I’m going to bleed to death here!’”

Cavendish also had a serious message to impart, saying he felt the commissaires had made a “courageous” decision to throw Sagan off the Tour, one which could change sprinting forever and make it safer for everyone.

“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 anything else,” Cavendish said.

Cavendish’s point about social media was a pointed one. As emotions ran high in the aftermath of the accident, everyone was canvassed for an opinion. Initially, there was a lot of sympathy for Briton, with Sagan generally felt to be at fault for the crash. However, as tensions rose and Sagan’s sentence went from a 30sec time penalty to disqualification from the race altogether, a backlash began.

Some of those who had been condemnatory of Sagan in the first instance – Lotto Soudal sprinter Andre Greipel for instance – changed their minds, while many Sagan fans on social media began to criticise Cavendish.

The Manx rider said it should be left to the professionals to judge. “I think in my career there’s always going to be an opinion on me,” he said. “There are a lot of people who don’t like me, although I have a lot of fans too. And there’s always going to be an opinion on Peter.

“But what you have to do here is take away the riders involved, take away the jerseys involved, and look at what happened. That’s why we have a jury, to make those decisions. The commissaires here are among the most experienced I’ve ever witnessed in cycling. I know them well. Philippe Marien has relegated me in the past.”

Cavendish said that the riders had been warned pre-Tour to keep their sprinting clean, and he said Sagan’s disqualification could have a big impact.

“It definitely made Mark Renshaw think [twice] when he was kicked out of the Tour in 2010 [for headbuttting],” he said. “I’ve been relegated, too. Definitely those incidents have made me calm down, that’s for sure.”

Cavendish added that Sagan – who issued a statement saying he accepted the jury’s decision, even if he did not agree with it – had called him again late on Tuesday night to apologise.

“I don’t have any hard feelings [towards him],” he said. “In fact, I think I’m the one guy who stands up for Peter. There are various riders, maybe on social media, and you see they change their opinion on things based on maybe criticism they get on social media. And it takes away their integrity a little bit.”

Asked if Sagan had explained his use of the elbow in the sprint, Cavendish added: “Yeah, he said he was keeping himself balanced. He said he didn’t know it was me coming up. I know nothing was malicious.”

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