Post Race Analysis

Rider reaction: should Peter Sagan have been disqualified from the 2017 Tour de France?

Pro riders past and present back world champion Peter Sagan after Mark Cavendish's race-ending crash

Pro riders past and present have jumped to the defence of Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), after the world champion was kicked out of the 2017 Tour de France for dangerous sprinting at the end of stage four – an incident which has resulted in Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) abandoning the race with a broken shoulder.

Sagan came off his racing line in the final sprint, cutting across Cavendish and forcing him into the barriers as he appeared to flick his elbow out.

Amid fury from Dimension Data riders and staff, Sagan was consequently booted out of the race for his role in the crash, having initially just been hit with a relegation on the stage, and time and points penalties.

Should Peter Sagan have been disqualified from the 2017 Tour de France? (Pic: Sirotti)

The Slovakian world champion, 27, protested his innocence, with his Bora-hansgrohe team confirming they had appealed his expulsion after the race.

And he has found support from within the peloton, as well as plenty of ex-pros, who, while many felt a relegation in the sprint was merited, felt expulsion from the Tour was too harsh a punishment.

Cavendish broke his shoulder in the crash (Pic: Sirotti)

RCUK verdict

Should Peter Sagan have been disqualified from the Tour de France 2017? In real-time the crash looked horrendous, and there was no doubting the world champion’s erratic sprinting line caused Cavendish to crash.

Some have argued Cavendish was trying to force himself through too small a gap, but the Manx Missile had every right to pick that line – the gap only closed when stage winner Arnaud Demare, and then Sagan, swung across the road.

And that is the crux of the issue with Sagan’s disqualification: even Mark Cavendish himself said, in his post-stage interviews, that Sagan coming across him was part of racing. Was what he did any worse than Demare, for example?

The big problem is Sagan’s use of the elbow, but the slow-motion replays are more favourable to the Bora-hansgrohe rider than the initial race coverage.

It appears the elbow came out only after the initial collision between the two riders, and was more for Sagan to steady himself.

If it was a deliberate elbow, this would be a cut-and-dry case and Sagan’s expulsion would be absolutely correct. It’s impossible to say that was the case, however, and perhaps the race commissaires should have erred more on the side of caution.

The pros’ verdict

Peter Sagan found a lot of support from riders past and present after the incident and as news of his disqualification filtered through.

Andre Greipel was initially highly critical of Sagan’s actions, with Lotto-Soudal directeur sportif Marc Sergeant telling press the German had proclaimed ‘Sagan is no longer my friend’.

Greipel’s opinion changed post-stage, however, after reviewing the footage again.

Former sprinter and green jersey winner Robbie McEwen also found the decision hard to understand, believing Sagan’s actions merited relegation not expulsion.

And McEwen’s opinion was backed by another rider well used to the cut and thrust of sprinting in the professional peloton, 48-time Grand Tour stage winner Alessandro Petacchi.

Petacchi was a former team-mate of Cavendish at Omega Pharma-QuickStep, and simply tweeted his agreement with McEwen’s interpretation of events.

Baden Cooke, another past Tour de France green jersey winner, also backed Sagan, using his experience from within the sport to defend the Slovak.

Jens Voigt, veteran of 17 Tour de France starts, agreed with the initial punishment handed down to Sagan, too – an 80-point penalty, relegation on the stage and a time penalty – but not with booting him from the race.

Former Vuelta a Espana winner Chris Horner, likewise, called for Sagan to be reinstated into the race.

Meanwhile, Michael Rogers, a former team-mate of Cavendish at Team Sky and of Sagan at Tinkoff-Saxo, criticised the knee-jerk reaction of the race jury.

On the topic of the race jury, Axel Merckx – now in charge at under-23 team Axeon-Hagens Berman – believes better rider representation is needed when it comes to race-defining decisions.

Not everybody supported Sagan, however, with Rolf Aldag – who works for Dimension Data and has been a long-term manager of Cavendish – reiterating his belief that Sagan’s ‘violence’ merited expulsion.

Aldag cited the disqualification of Mark Renshaw in the 2010 Tour de France, when the Australian headbutted a rival in the final sprint when riding for Cavendish at HTC-Highroad, but did not cause a crash, as an example.

While Aldag, and Dimension Data directeur sportif Roger Hammond had vented their fury to the television cameras afterwards, Cavendish, however, had remained calm – telling reporters he wanted to talk to Sagan before passing comment.

And former British pro and Tour stage winner David Millar praised the Manxman’s actions – as well as adding his name to the list of people backing Sagan.

Finally, Chris Boardman questioned whether – if Sagan was deemed to be at fault – French champion and stage winner Arnaud Demare should also have been punished.

There was some better news to emerge after the stage, however, with British rider Ben Swift confirming he was OK after somersaulting over his handlebars, unable to avoid his stricken compatriot.

Swift said he could not recall a crash like it, having catapulted into the air but landed on his back and avoided serious injury.

And Swift’s former Team Sky team-mate, Tour de France race leader Geraint Thomas confirmed he too was in good shape having crashed in a separate incident inside the final two kilometres.

So, should Peter Sagan have been disqualified from the Tour de France? Let us know your opinion.

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