World road race-champion Peter Sagan will appeal his expulsion from the Tour de France after causing a crash that resulted in the withdrawal of Britain’s Mark Cavendish.
Sagan was sensationally disqualified after elbowing his Cavendish in a hectic sprint in the fourth stage, the race jury saying the Slovak wilfully obstructed the Briton some 100 metres from the line.
Cavendish broke his shoulder blade in the subsequent fall and required hospital treatment.
He had spent three months battling back from the Epstein-Barr virus in order to make the start line of the Tour in Dusseldorf, and his early exit will come as a bitter blow.
“I’m obviously massively disappointed to get this news about the fracture,” Cavendish said. “The team was incredible today.”
As news broke of Cavendish’s departure, Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team has it they had officially lodged a protest against his disqualification.
Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond said Sagan is an aggressive rider but did not deserve to be disqualified.’
Former US cyclist LeMond said sprints were “very dangerous” and he did not think Sagan intentionally sent Cavendish crashing to the ground.
Overhead TV footage showed Sagan clearly elbowing Cavendish but LeMond, who won the Tour in 1986, 1989 and 1990, noted that some of the action could not be seen.
“It is too harsh, I think,”LeMond said of Sagan’s expulsion.
“What Sagan did was wrong but was it intentional? Did he purposely send Cavendish into the barriers? I don’t think so,” he said.
“I don’t think Cav’ would want him out. It’s a loss for the Tour, Peter Sagan is not an angry person or a poor sportsman.”
Riders often reach 70km/h in a sprint and any change of line or contact can have dramatic consequences.
Cavendish, meanwhile, said he was “massively disappointed” to learn of his fracture.
“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.”
Earlier, after the stage had finished, Cavendish vented his frustration: “If he came across that is one thing but I am not a fan of him putting his elbow out like that.”
– with AAP