VITTEL, France (AFP) — World champion Peter Sagan is out of the Tour de France after accepting his disqualification for racing dangerously, as the race favorites are set for their first mountain battle Wednesday.
The 27-year-old Slovak had been hoping for a last-minute reprieve after his Bora-Hansgrohe team appealed against his sanction for what UCI jury president Philippe Mariën said was a “very serious maneuver in the sprint” at the end of Tuesday’s stage 4.
With 200 meters left, Dimension Data’s Mark Cavendish tried to pass Sagan through a small gap along the barriers. What happened next is not entirely clear from video replays, but Cavendish crashed hard into the barriers and Sagan’s right elbow went out as Cavendish was going down.
Cavendish suffered a broken shoulder blade and is also out of the race.
On Wednesday morning, Sagan said he disagrees with the UCI’s decision.
“I can only accept the decision of the jury, but I disagree. I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong in the sprint,” said Sagan.
Bora reacted late on Tuesday saying they had appealed the decision and asked that Sagan be reinstated, although that scenario was always unlikely.
“In the sprint I didn’t know that Mark Cavendish was behind me,” protested Sagan. “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.”
Cavendish questioned why Sagan threw an elbow, even though it’s not clear if the elbow made contact with him.
“I was a little bit confused with the elbow, that’s something I’d like to speak to him about,” said Cavendish, the winner of 30 Tour stages.
“I’m obviously massively disappointed to get this news about the fracture,” said Cavendish.
As for Wednesday’s 160.5km fifth stage from Vittel to La Planche des Belles Filles, Sky’s Chris Froome is licking his lips in anticipation.
It was there in 2012 that he won his first career Tour stage before going on to finish second overall to fellow Britton and teammate Bradley Wiggins.
“It was a really memorable victory for me,” said Froome, who has since won three Tour titles. “I’m certainly looking forward to going back there.”
According to Australia’s 2011 Tour winner Cadel Evans, Wednesday’s stage will give a big clue as to who will win the grand tour when it reaches Paris on July 23.
“If you look back at all the results, certainly of the Tours I rode, the result of the first mountain finish is often very close to the GC in Paris,” he said.
Now retired, Evans is the only Australian and only rider for the BMC Racing team to have won the Tour.
But he has in Richie Porte a more than capable successor for both those roles.
And current race leader Geraint Thomas, Froome’s teammate, believes Porte will be looking to attack at the end of Wednesday’s stage, which starts off quite flat but climbs to more than 1,000 meters above sea level by the finish.
“Richie is going to try for sure. He is in great form and the climb is perfect for him,” said Thomas.
Despite wearing the yellow jersey, the 31-year-old Welshman insisted he has no personal designs in this Tour other than helping his team leader.
“I’m fully committed to Froomey and winning the Tour with him,” he said.
The stage ends with a steep first category climb, 5.9km long with an average gradient of 8.5 percent, although the very end rises to 20 percent.
“It’s not a long climb,” said Froome. “We shouldn’t see big time differences, but definitely it’s tough enough to show exactly where all the rivals are at.”