Head-butting in the intense battle for position saw André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Gaviria relegated by the race jury in Saturday’s frenetic sprint. Each received the dreaded “sprint irrégulier” coming to the line in Amiens.
No one was happy in the aftermath, but the decision could have a larger impact on the ongoing battle for the green jersey.
The big German, who was also spotted tangling up earlier in the battle for position, and the speedy Colombian battled for position on the left-side barriers after Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) opened up the sprint early. Eventual stage-winner Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) bolted past, with Greipel and Gaviria finishing second and third, respectively. Sagan crossed the line fourth.
After further review, the jury relegated Greipel and Gaviria to last in the front group, and slotted Sagan into second and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) into third on the official results sheet.
Gaviria was livid at the line, but he will probably be even angrier when he realizes what it means in the quest for green.
Greipel, however, posted an angry note on Twitter.
“Nothing more to say about that decision of the jury,” Greipel said. “When you do your sprint, you keep your line. I have no eyes in my back, and I don’t let myself get pushed out of the way from nobody. Hard to accept to get already robbed of the stage win and now commissaries take away even second?”
Relegations are part of the territory for mass sprints in the Tour de France, and not only can they cost a rider a victory — it did not in this case — but it can also prove costly in a tight battle for the green jersey.
With two stage wins, Gaviria is the only rider giving Sagan a run for his money in what would be the Slovakian’s sixth green jersey. The Colombian’s relegation Saturday cost him 30 second-place green jersey points, with Sagan the direct benefactor.
The relegation could prove decisive in the fight for green. Here’s why:
Sagan started Sunday’s stage leading Gaviria by just 29 points, at 234 to 203. Both picked up mid-stage intermediate sprint points, but following the relegation, Sagan took 30 at the line while Gaviria got nothing.
Sagan’s green points jersey lead now extends 63 points with Sagan’s 277 to Gaviria’s 214. Had the stage results stood, Sagan would have only led with 265 to Gaviria’s 244. And Gaviria would have still been within striking distance.
With Sagan’s consistency in the sprints — he’s been in the top-3 in every sprint so far — Gaviria will need a bit of luck to get back into the fight. With 50 points going to the stage-winner, Gaviria would need to bounce back on the winner’s podium and see Sagan miss out on top placings to surge back into contention.
Gaviria could be running out of time to chase green in what’s been an otherwise spectacular Tour de France debut.
Sunday’s cobblestone stage heavily favors defending Paris-Roubaix champion Sagan over Gaviria in the points battle.
“The team did a great job, but I started my sprint a little bit early,” Sagan said. “I kept the green jersey and tomorrow we have another battle on the pavé.”
And as the Tour shifts into the second half dominated by mountains, there are fewer opportunities for sprint finales that could give Gaviria an opportunity to keep pressing Sagan for green.
Sagan, also with two wins so far in this Tour, was slowly pulling away. Saturday could well give him the winning gap he needs to hold the green all the way to Paris.
If Sagan manages to win a record-tying sixth green jersey, Saturday’s relegation could prove to be the turning point.