VITTEL, France (Reuters) - World champion Peter Sagan was kicked out of the Tour de France on Tuesday after sending Mark Cavendish crashing to the ground in a hectic finale to the fourth stage, sending shockwaves through the three-week cycling extravaganza.
Cavendish broke his shoulder blade in the crash and has withdrawn from the Tour, his Dimension Data team told Reuters.
Sagan’s German team Bora-Hansgrohe has appealed against the decision of the race jury to throw the Slovak out of the Tour.
French champion Arnaud Demare won the stage, a 207.5-km ride from Mondorf-les-Bains, Luxembourg, but all the drama took place just behind him in the final stretch of the race.
Sagan appeared to knock Cavendish off balance with an extended elbow as the Briton was trying to force his way between him and the safety barrier, and Cavendish was sent crashing heavily to the ground.
The Briton went to hospital for checks on his wrist and collarbone. Despite the fracture, the team doctor said no surgery was required and there was no nerve damage.
Race jury president Philippe Marien had earlier told reporters Sagan would play no further part in the Tour.
“Peter Sagan is disqualified from the 2017 Tour de France after today’s tumultuous sprint in Vittel,” he said.
Marien cited Article 12 of the International Cycling Union (UCI) rules, which says any rider making a wilful obstruction “against one of the 1st 10 riders placed” faces elimination.
But Sagan’s outfit want him reinstated, saying: ”The team disagrees with the decision and protested it officially.
”Peter Sagan rejected to have caused, or in any way intended to cause, the crash of Mark Cavendish on the final 200m of the stage. Peter stayed on his line in the sprint and could not see Cavendish on the right side.
“The team applied for a redress of Peter Sagan’s result in stage 4.”
After the race Cavendish, wearing a sling, said: “I get on with Peter well... if he came across it’s one thing, but the elbow... I’m not a fan of him putting his elbow in me like that.”
Sagan, who went to Cavendish’s team bus to apologise, later said in a team statement: “In the sprint I didn’t know that Mark Cavendish was behind me. 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.”
German John Degenkolb, the 2016 Paris-Roubaix champion, also crashed as he ran into Cavendish on the ground.
Cavendish eventually got back on his bike and crossed the line after being attended to by race medics.
After pulling out of the race Cavendish said in a team statement: ”I‘m obviously massively disappointed to get this news about the 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’ve built my whole career around, is really sad.”
The race’s yellow jersey holder, Britain’s Geraint Thomas, hit the deck in a separate pile-up near the end, but as the incident occurred within the final three kilometres he will be credited with the same time as the winner.
Thomas and defending champion Chris Froome, who was held up behind the crash and is 12 seconds behind his compatriot in the overall classification, are fine, Team Sky said.
“I went to the ground, but no serious damage,” said Thomas, who was also brought down in a crash on Sunday.
Norway’s Kristoff (Katusha) came home third, but moved up to second after Sagan’s expulsion, as FDJ rider Demare, who has been in impressive form lately, had time to raise his arms in celebration before crossing the line.
Demare, the 2011 under-21 world champion, burst into the limelight when he won the ‘Monument’ classic Milan-San Remo last year but he said Tuesday’s victory was more special.
The Frenchman took the green jersey for the points classification and is now favourite to take it to Paris, a feat Sagan was looking to achieve for a record-equalling sixth time.
Wednesday’s fifth stage should see the top guns in action as the 160.5-km ride from Vittel will finish up La Planche des Belles Filles, a lung-busting 5.9-km climb at an average gradient of 8.5 percent.
Additional reporting by Ken Ferris; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Frank Pingue