Friday 15 December 2017

WATCH - Injured Mark Cavendish out of Tour de France after 'violent' crash sees Peter Sagan sensationally disqualified

Slovakia's Peter Sagan (R) gives a kick of elbow and Great Britain's Mark Cavendish (L) falls near the finish line at the end of the 207,5 km fourth stage of the 104th edition of the Tour de France cycling race
Slovakia's Peter Sagan (R) gives a kick of elbow and Great Britain's Mark Cavendish (L) falls near the finish line at the end of the 207,5 km fourth stage of the 104th edition of the Tour de France cycling race

Tom Cary

Mark Cavendish was sent crashing out of the 104th Tour de France with a fractured shoulder and Peter Sagan, the two-time world champion, sensationally sent home in one of the race’s biggest non-doping controversies in living memory.

Sagan [Bora-Hansgrohe] was found guilty of “seriously endangering” another rider by causing a violent crash which sent Cavendish [Dimension Data] careering into the barriers at 60kmh.

"We have decided to disqualify Peter Sagan from Tour de France 2017 as he endangered some of his colleagues seriously in the final metres of the sprint which happened in Vittel," said race jury president Philippe Marien.

"We applied article 12.104, irregular sprints, in which case commissaires are allowed to enforce a judgement to disqualify a rider and amend a fine."

After a first scan revealed no broken bones, Cavendish underwent a second scan at a hospital 80km from the finish in Vittel, north eastern France. The results of that scan showed a fracture to the right scapula. The Manx rider also suffered cuts to his right hand, requiring stitches.

"Mark suffered a fracture to the right scapula," Team Dimension Data doctor Adrian Rotunno said. "Fortunately no surgery is required at this stage, and most importantly there is no nerve damage.

"He's been withdrawn from the race for obvious medical reasons, and we'll continue monitoring him over the coming days."

It is a huge blow for Cavendish, who injured the same shoulder at the 2014 Tour de France grand depart in Harrogate and who had to battle just to get to France after suffering from glandular fever in the spring.

The Manx rider’s hopes of making further inroads into Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 stage wins are now over. He began this race on 30 and had been looking to ride himself into form.

"I'm obviously massively disappointed to get this news about the fracture," Cavendish said. "The team was incredible.

"They executed to perfection what we wanted to do this morning. I feel I was in a good position to win and to lose that and even having to leave the Tour, a race I have built my whole career around, is really sad."

As news broke of Cavendish's departure, Sagan's Bora-Hansgrohe team announced they had officially protested the Slovakian's expulsion.

One thing is certain and that is that the controversy over Sagan’s disqualification will rumble on and on. The double world champion is one of cycling’s biggest stars. He won his eighth Tour stage in Longwy on Monday night with a display of quite breathtaking supremacy – finding the time to clip back into his pedal after his shoe unclipped in the finale – and had been heavily favoured to win a sixth straight green jersey at this Tour.

His disqualification, announced a couple of hours after the stage finished, sent shockwaves through the sport, with strong opinions on both sides.

The Slovakian accepted responsibility for the crash. He even went over to the Dimension Data bus – after a battered and bruised Cavendish had managed to pick himself up off the floor – to apologise to the Briton. But while that apology was appreciated by Cavendish, who said he had a “good relationship” with Sagan and was “not angry” with him, the Manx rider also admitted that he was “confused” by Sagan’s actions in the sprint and wanted to speak further with him to understand why he did what he did.

The day had until then been desperately dull. The 207.5km stage from Mondorf-Les-Bains in Luxembourg to Vittel had finally reached the finale everyone knew it would – a bunch sprint – and the major contenders had mostly managed to avoid one crash already as they reached the final 500m.

Cavendish attempted to squeeze through a narrowing gap between Sagan and the barriers only for the world champion to deviate from his line slightly, flicking out an elbow as Cavendish fell sideways. Some felt that Cavendish was already on his way down when the elbow came out, others that Sagan clearly elbowed the Briton.

Either way, Cavendish was then hit by John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Ben Swift (UAE Emirates) as Frenchman Arnaud Demare [FDJ] beat Sagan to the line.

"In the sprint I didn't know that Mark Cavendish was behind me," Sagan said.

"He was coming from the right side, and I was trying to go on (Alexander) Kristoff's wheel. Mark was coming really fast from the back and I just didn't have time to react and to go left.

"He came into me and he went into the fence. 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."

There were immediate calls for Sagan to be disqualified, not just from the stage but from the race. But few believed the commissaires would actually do it. There was a precedent. Mark Renshaw, Cavendish’s lead-out man, was thrown off the 2010 Tour for headbutting. But Sagan is the world champion and this was a massive call for the race jury.

Inititally, it appeared the commissaires were content to dock Sagan 30 seconds on GC and take away 80 points. But Dimension Data appealed for a stronger penalty. Rolf Aldag, the team’s sporting director, argued that the crash was “not a race incident” but rather that it constituted “violence”.

“Hard to DQ a world champion from letour but needs to be done,” he tweeted.

His fellow sporting director Roger Hammond alleged that Sagan had also been involved in the earlier crash. “Causes a big crash at 1.5 to go, elbows fellow competitor in the head 300 meters... can only result in one decision. #Goodbye”

Their views found sympathy with Marc Sargent, the Lotto Soudal manager, who said his sprinter Andre Greipel had been none too pleased with Sagan’s riding either.

“Yesterday it was the same thing in the intermediate sprint, he gave an elbow to André,” Sergeant told Eurosport. “Greipel was saying, ‘He isn’t my friend anymore from now on’.”

Greipel later tweeted that he had perhaps been a bit hasty in his condemnation of Sagan, while others including former champion Greg LeMond felt that disqualification was “too harsh”.

The race continues on Wednesday with its first summit finish atop La Planche des Belles Filles, where the major general classification contenders are likely to show their hands for the first time.

Geraint Thomas [Team Sky] still leads defending champion Chris Froome by 12 seconds in the overall.

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