VALENCE, France (VN) — Veteran Tinkoff-Saxo sport director Sean Yates got the heave-ho from the Tour de France for a day after things heated up late in Sunday’s stage.
Tempers flared as the temperature soared in a confrontation involving a Tinkoff-Saxo team car, green jersey leader Peter Sagan, and an overeager TV motorcycle driver.
With about 40km to go, Sagan was irate with a TV crew that interfered with a bike change for the looming sprint finish in Valence. Team officials were angry that the motorcycle driver got in the way, preventing a seamless swap of bikes for Sagan, who was already riding in the day’s main breakaway.
“I wanted to change my bike from my climbing bike to my Venge for the sprint. A motorbike got in my way, between me and my team car, which slowed down the bike change,” Sagan said. “The group was going at full speed, and my teammates slowed down to support me.”
Sagan was gesticulating at the TV crew, urging them to move out of the way. The motorcycle, however, kept hovering around the ever-more-agitated Slovakian.
Yates, meanwhile, was behind the wheel, yelling at the TV crew to get out of the way. The TV crew stopped to tape the bike exchange, and Tinkoff-Saxo mechanic Faustino Muñoz heaved a water bottle at the cameraman, a good toss from 20 yards that nearly pegged him.
The UCI commissaires ruled that Yates would not be allowed to drive in Monday’s 15th stage, citing “serious comportment” against a television motorcycle.
Once back in the pack, Sagan dashed to fourth on the stage, giving a nice hip-check to Bryan Coquard (Europcar) as he made space for his sprint.
Though he came up short again, he notched a remarkable 10th top-five finish through 15 days of racing, further tightening his grip on the green jersey.
“It was very hectic in the sprint, and there was a lot of movement, but that’s how it is in the sprint,” Sagan said. “It’s like a lottery sometimes.”
Sagan now moves 44 points clear of André Greipel (Lotto Soudal), who surged to his third stage victory in this Tour. With no sprints likely before Paris, Sagan only needs to stay upright on the bicycle to win a fourth consecutive green points jersey.
Wheelies are okay, but evidently tossing water bottles is not.