Tour de France 2017: Arnaud Demare wins stage four; Mark Cavendish suffers bad crash in sprint; Peter Sagan disqualified - Road Cycling UK

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Tour de France 2017: Arnaud Demare wins stage four; Mark Cavendish suffers bad crash in sprint; Peter Sagan disqualified

Arnaud Demare celebrates first Tour win, but Peter Sagan is disqualified after Mark Cavendish crashes in chaotic finale

Arnaud Demare (FDJ) won stage four of the 2017 Tour de France in Vittel in a chaotic sprint which saw Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) crash heavily into the barriers, leading to Peter Sagan’s (Bora-hansgrohe) disqualification from the race.

An earlier crash within the final two kilometres had already seen yellow jersey Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) hit the deck and a vastly-reduced group continue to contest the sprint.

And worse was to follow in the sprint as Cavendish tried to thread his way through a narrow gap, only for Sagan to stick out an elbow and force the Manxman into the barriers. Sagan was subsequently disqualified from the Tour de France by the race jury (read the full story on Sagan’s disqualification).

Arnaud Demare won stage four of the 2017 Tour de France, but the stage was marred by two late crashes (Pic: Sirotti)

Fellow Brit Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates) and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) also went down as Cavendish skidded back across the road.

It left Demare, positioned further forward in the middle of the road and out of the trouble, to celebrate his first Tour stage win, ahead of Sagan.

Cavendish received medical attention on the road but crossed the line on his bike, before speaking about the incident to the press gathered outside the Dimension Data team bus.

“If he came across, it’s one thing – but the elbow, I’m not a fan of putting the elbow in like that,” said Cavendish. “A crash is a crash, but I’d like to know about the elbow. I’d like to speak with Peter, I have a good relationship with him.”

It was a chaotic finish to an otherwise incident-free stage, on the long 207.5km run to Vittel. Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) escaped from the flag, only to find nobody followed him as he braced himself for a long day in the saddle.

The easy tempo of the peloton, which Team Sky led for much of the early part of the stage, meant the Belgian’s gap increased significantly – soon heading into double figures before the peloton began eating into that gap.

With a long, largely flat stage before them, the rhythm of the race was set, with only a flurry of action at the intermediate sprint breaking up proceedings.

A lone escapee meant plenty of intermediate sprint points on offer in the bunch, and Demare tested his legs for the final sprint by winning the kick from the peloton.

Geraint Thomas was also caught up in a crash but rolled across the line without losing any time (Pic: Sirotti)

Van Keirsbulck snaffled the only climbing point on offer, before his long day up the road was finally ended – with the sprint teams having taken over from Team Sky for the expected bunch gallop.

Katusha-Alpecin put a big shift in, while Steve Cummings aired the British champion’s jersey on the front of the bunch and Nacer Bouhanni’s Cofidis team-mates called for tempo on the narrow country roads leading to Vittel.

On the opposite side of the road, Team Sky lined out with yellow jersey Thomas and defending champion Froome in tow but the fight for position meant nobody had full control of the bunch.

Dimension Data took the best line around the first big left-hand turn leading to the technical run-in, and constant twists and turns lined the peloton out behind them.

A crash with less than 2km to go saw several riders hit the deck, however, with Thomas among them, decimating the bunch and leaving only a small group to sprint for the finish.

And the drama was not over – as Demare led the sprint out from the front, Cavendish tried to squeeze between Sagan and the barriers only to be met with an elbow from the world champion.

Sagan initially protested his innocence, saying: “I just didn’t know Mark was behind me, he was coming from the right side and I wanted to take the wheel in front. Mark was coming pretty fast, and I didn’t have the time to react to go left.”

But the race jury took the opposite view and later threw the 27-year-old off the race.

Demare celebrates his first Tour de France stage win on the podium (Pic: Sirotti)

At the conclusion of the stage, former British champion Roger Hammond, the Dimension Data directeur sportif, had condemned Sagan. “Of course, I’m furious,” he said. “I think everybody’s seen those images.

“Those emotions are increased when a lot of people have worked so hard. Mark has spent a lot of time away from his family to get to the Tour de France.

“Everybody in this team has a right to be extremely angry.”

Team Dimension Data’s performance manager, Rolf Aldag, was also quick to criticise Sagan and called the UCI to take action.

Peter Sagan protested his innocence after Mark Cavendish’s crash (Pic: Sirotti)

“They are both sprinters, so they are hard guys but I think the message we send out here is if the world champion can elbow his competitors off the bike at 65km/h… that’s pretty much life threatening so I don’t think we can accept that,” Aldag said, before adding: “It’s time for [the UCI] to step up here and make a decision.”

Ultimately, the race jury’s decision saw Sagan expelled from the race as the Slovak, who won stage three on Monday, went from hero to villain.

Thomas, meanwhile, remounted to finish the stage and keep the yellow jersey, with the Welshman not losing any time as his earlier crash came inside the final 3km.

Tour de France 2017: stage four – result

1) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ – 4.53.54hrs
2) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha-Alpecin
3) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Soudal
4) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis
5) Adrien Petit (FRA) – Direct Energie
6) Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal
7) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Team Sunweb
8) Manuele Mori (ITA) – UAE Team Emirates
9) Tiesj Benoot (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal
10) Zdenek Stybar (CZE) – QuickStep Floor

General classification

1) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky – 14.54.25hrs
2) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +12”
3) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Team Sunweb – ST
4) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Dimension Data +16”
5) Pierre Latour (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +25”
6) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – QuickStep Floors +30”
7) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Team Sky +32”
8) Tim Wellens (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal – ST
9) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ +33”
10) Nikias Arndt (GER) – Team Sunweb +34″

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