Tour de France 2017: Cavendish's quest for victory shattered by Sagan's elbow

 
Oliver Gill
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Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage Four
Mark Cavendish (far left) just before he was squeezed into the barriers today (Source: Getty)

British rider Mark Cavendish’s Tour de France is in jeopardy after a dramatic crash with rival sprinter Peter Sagan on stage four saw him whisked off to hospital and the Slovakian thrown out of the race.

Cavendish – second on the all-time list with 30 Tour stage wins – collided with Sagan’s elbow, sending him hurtling into the barriers, as he attempted to pass Sagan on the inside in the final throes of the stage.

In an incident-strewn final kilometre, Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas was also sent flying in an earlier crash with defending champion Chris Froome held up behind. Thomas retained the leader's yellow jersey.

Cavendish refused to criticise Sagan but said his disqualification was "the jury's decision".

He said:

I was massively grateful that Peter came directly after the finish to see me.

Even with the movement to the right… that’s racing. I was a little bit confused with the elbow. That’s something I’d like to speak to him about. I’m not angry. I’m just a little bit confused.

Cavendish, sporting a sling after the stage, said he needed stitches in a hand injury and sounded downbeat about his prospects of continuing the race.

"It's something to do with the shoulder that I hurt in Harrogate," he added. "I'm not a doctor but I'm not optimistic."

Read more: Skydiving? Millar reveals why Team Sky's days are far from numbered

Froome and Thomas finished comparatively unscathed, despite their falls, and did not lose any time. France’s national champion Arnaud Demare won the stage.

Manxman Cavendish, who is only four Tour stage wins behind record-holder Eddy Merckx, appeared perfectly positioned despite the tumultuous finish to the 207km stage from Mondorf-les-Bains to Vittel.

As he attempted to find space on the inside of Sagan, the Bora-Hansgrohe rider appeared to stick out his elbow and catch the 32-year-old Briton. Somersaulting into the barriers, Cavendish was run over by riders following behind him.

Ralf Aldag, performance director of Cavendish’s team Dimension Data, slammed Sagan, saying: ““To elbow somebody off the bike at that speed is just an act of violence.”

Sagan insisted the collision had been an accident. He said:

He was coming from behind. I did not have time to react and go left.

Officials reviewed video footage for more than an hour after the race. Sagan, the five-time winner of the Tour’s sprint competition, was thrown out by officials for “seriously endangering” another rider.

Froome said he was “okay” despite being caught behind the earlier crash. Thomas said he was largely unaffected. "Luckily I took off most of the speed,” he said. Both riders were given the same time as the stage winner because the crash occurred within the final 3km.

Read more: Froome: I was rammed off road by hit-and-run driver

Stage one: Thomas shocks favourites by winning Tour de France opener

Stage two: Froome survives peloton pile-up scare

Stage three: Sagan unclips then pips rivals as Team Sky move into top two places overall

Stage result

RANK RIDER TEAM TIMES GAP
1 DEMARE ARNAUD FDJ 04H 53' 54''
2 KRISTOFF ALEXANDER TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN 04H 53' 54'' 00' 00''
3 GREIPEL ANDRÉ LOTTO SOUDAL 04H 53' 54'' 00' 00''
4 BOUHANNI NACER COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS 04H 53' 54'' 00' 00''
5 PETIT ADRIEN DIRECT ENERGIE 04H 53' 54'' 00' 00''
6 ROELANDTS JURGEN LOTTO SOUDAL 04H 53' 54'' 00' 00''
7 MATTHEWS MICHAEL TEAM SUNWEB 04H 53' 54'' 00' 00''
8 MORI MANUELE UAE TEAM EMIRATES 04H 53' 54'' 00' 00''
9 BENOOT TIESJ LOTTO SOUDAL 04H 53' 54'' 00' 00''
10 STYBAR ZDENEK QUICK - STEP FLOORS 04H 53' 54'' 00' 00''

General classification

RANK RIDER TEAM TIMES GAP
1 THOMAS GERAINT TEAM SKY 14H 54' 25''
2 FROOME CHRISTOPHER TEAM SKY 14H 54' 37'' 00' 12''
3 MATTHEWS MICHAEL TEAM SUNWEB 14H 54' 37'' 00' 12''
4 BOASSON HAGEN EDVALD TEAM DIMENSION DATA 14H 54' 41'' 00' 16''
5 LATOUR PIERRE-ROGER AG2R LA MONDIALE 14H 54' 50'' 00' 25''
6 GILBERT PHILIPPE QUICK - STEP FLOORS 14H 54' 55'' 00' 30''
7 KWIATKOWSKI MICHAL TEAM SKY 14H 54' 57'' 00' 32''
8 WELLENS TIM LOTTO SOUDAL 14H 54' 57'' 00' 32''
9 DEMARE ARNAUD FDJ 14H 54' 58'' 00' 33''
10 ARNDT NIKIAS TEAM SUNWEB 14H 54' 59'' 00' 34''

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