Even if you’re not closely following the Tour de France, you probably heard the news that after Tuesday’s stage Peter Sagan – the reigning world champion and arguably the most popular pro rider – was tossed from the Tour after race referees ruled that his actions in the final sprint not only had caused the bad crash that ended Mark Cavendish‘s Tour (fractured scapula) but also “had put several other riders involved in the crash in danger,” according to Philippe Marien, the head referee.
Sagan’s BORA – hansgrohe team officially protested the decision and released this statement from Sagan:
“In the sprint I didn’t know that Mark Cavendish was behind me. He was coming from the right side, and I was trying to go on Kristoff’s wheel. Mark was coming really fast from the back and I just didn’t have time to react and to go left. He came into me and he went into the fence. When I was told after the finish that Mark had crashed, I went straight away to find out how he was doing. We are friends and colleagues in the peloton and crashes like that are never nice. I hope Mark recovers soon.”
Sagan further stated that he does not believe he was at fault: “I can accept the decision but for sure I do not agree with them, because I think I have done nothing wrong…. As you saw it was a crazy sprint. It was not the first one like that or the last one.”
In fact, many pro sprints are effectively rolling scrums in which it’s not uncommon to see varying degrees of heads and shoulders being used “offensively” as riders jockey for position.
The ruling seems to come down to a dictate issued before the start of the Tour. As head race referee Marien stated:
“Before the Tour de France we warned the sprinters that we would look very closely at every sprint. That is what we did today. It was not an easy decision, but this is the beginning of the Tour and now is the moment to set our boundaries. And that is what we did today. It was not about Sagan, but about the act the rider made. What happens here, it looks like it was on purpose and it almost looks like hitting a person. It’s not about Cavendish and Sagan, it could be anybody, the names won’t matter.”
Did the punishment fit the offense? You be the judge: