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Moments later, the Tour de France’s UCI race jury relegated Sagan to last in the bunch after reviewing finish-line video that showed the Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter bumping shoulders with Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) to make the space.
“Today, I had the speed and, in the sprint, I tried to go on the right side. I passed one rider easily, but then it got really narrow,” Sagan said in a statement issued by Bora-Hansgrohe. “I had to move to avoid the barriers and as a result, I got relegated. This cost me a lot of points but I still have not abandoned the fight for the green jersey.”
After the finish, van Aert voiced his frustration with Sagan’s move to reporters.
“When Sagan pushed me, I immediately lost my momentum,” said van Aert, already a winner of two Tour stages this year. “It’s dangerous enough. I was sprinting on a line on the right side. That is my right because I was there.”
Indeed, van Aert was the first of the sprinters to begin his push to the line, and his early jump saw him fade in the final meters. The road also curved slightly to the right in the final meters before the line, which is where Sagan and van Aert came into contact.
Van Aert said he maintained his line — it was Sagan, he said, who violated the rules.
“In my opinion I sprinted in a completely straight line,” van Aert said. “I started completely at the right on the [barriers], and [Sagan] just tried to create space for him. For me, it’s not allowed to do that. It’s already dangerous enough. I was surprised and shocked when I felt something. I was at maximum effort and I was really scared.”
The 25-year-old Belgian was incredulous at Sagan’s actions. When asked if Sagan’s move was due to the Slovakian’s impeccable bike-handling skills, van Aert shot back.
“This is a really weird way of thinking. I think I’m also a good bike handler but it never comes into my mind to create space like that,” van Aert said. “There wasn’t a gap, and if you use your elbows to open it up, I think it’s completely against the rules. For me, it’s not reasonable and not done.”
Van Aert was visibly upset by the move and could be seen having words with Sagan as the two rolled past the finish line. Van Aert said he and Sagan exchanged unpleasantries in the interaction.
“In the first moment I was so shocked and surprised that I was a bit angry. I didn’t use a very nice word to him,” van Aert said. “Afterward, I tried to say to him I didn’t like it what he was doing. The only thing that came back was other strong words. It was hard to have a conversation.”
There was no immediate response from Sagan, but the relegation will have a major impact on his fight with Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) for the green points jersey.
With the relegation, Bennett takes the second-place points, while Sagan is blanked.
Bennett started the stage holding a 21-point lead in the green jersey battle.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, but Jumbo-Visma teammate Primož Roglič said he agreed with the decision, saying, “I just saw it, I think it’s the right decision. The sprinters are different than we are, they are really crazy guys, fighting for the places and fighting to do the sprints. Still, it needs to be fair, and it was the right decision.”