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Sagan vs Cavendish – Ongoing Controversy but is Anyone Really to Blame ?

by Ben Andrew

July 05, 2017 (Vittel, FRA) – Stage 4 of this year’s Tour de France was a relatively mundane affair until the crash-marred final as riders sprinted for the line in Vittel. In the closing meters of the stage, British sprint ace Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) came in contact with two-time road world champion Peter Sagan (BORA – Hansgrohe).

Final sprint Cavendish vs Sagan  ©
As the two made contact it appeared that Sagan elbowed Cavendish into the barriers and he ultimately hit the ground hard and is out of the Tour. But was Sagan simply protecting himself and his space while trying to stay upright in reaction to Cavendish who came from behind?

Following a protest launched by Dimension Data management, a Union Cycliste International (UCI) jury decided expel Sagan from the Tour for unsafe riding. The action of the UCI has left many of the riders, staff and the wider cycling world divided on whether this was an appropriate response to the incident.

Rolf Aldag tweet  ©

Another crash occurred at around 2km to go involving yellow jersey wearer Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) who was unhurt and as the final sprint unfolded Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits and Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal made contact with 100 meters to go. They managed to stay upright but forced the sprint to the right side of the road.

Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ wins Stage 4  ©  Cor Vos
Eventual stage winner Arnaud Demare (FDJ), the current French national champion, began his sprint to the right of barriers and Sagan moved to follow his wheel while Cavendish attempted to come from behind between Sagan and the barrier. What resulted was an unfortunate crash that will not be forgotten quickly, nor will the heated debates which have followed.

Demare  ©
Initial aerial video footage appeared to show Sagan used his elbow to push Cavendish into the barriers, however the sprint was partially obscured by foliage from trees.

Sagan and Cavendish  ©
Images of Sagan’s extended elbow as Cavendish hit the deck quickly spread across many media outlets covering the Tour as the UCI handed down an aggressive, and some now feel was a premature ruling to disqualify Sagan.

Sagan vs Cavendish  ©

Upon further review by professional and ex-professional riders, as well as many members of the media and fans, Sagan does drift from Demare’s wheel, which contravenes the UCI’s rules governing sprints, however it seems apparent to most that Cavendish comes in contact with Sagan from behind and may have already been falling as Sagan attempts to protect himself and stay upright while fending off the rider in his space by extending his elbow.

Sagan vs Cavendish  ©  Aleksandar Roman

Former classics star Magnus Backstedt weighed in tweeting that this racing incident was simply the culmination of an aggressive sprint following an easy day of racing with all riders looking to be first across the line.

Magnus Backstedt tweet  ©

Greipel, who initially voiced his anger towards Sagan changed his tone after reviewing video footage of the sprint.

Andre Greipel tweet  ©
Sagan’s BORA-Hansgrohe team reported launched an appeal of the ruling, but as of this morning Sagan accepted the UCI’s ruling, but continues to deny any wrong doing. While the UCI appears to be eager to crack down on unsafe racing, they may have missed the mark on this particular situation.


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