The Tour de France is never perfect, but this year’s race organizers made that a certainty.
Two time reigning World Champion and five time defender of le Tour’s Green Jersey Peter Sagan was disqualified yesterday in what you would safely call a questionable move.
As the field began to thin down as speed picked up in the final two kilometers, the peloton suffered a crash that left a select number of riders left for the sprint.
Sagan normally wanders without the use of his teammates while Mark Cavendish had lost his normally well organized train as everyone kicked up notch for their final push.
Sitting in about 4th place at the time, Sagan followed the group as everyone was meandering to grab wheels to springboard themselves.
While moving behind Kristoff, Sagan appeared to have boxed in Cavendish, yet he still tried to move past the World Champion.
Sensing this movement, Sagan threw up his elbow leaving no other option for Cavendish but to go down:
While I have no doubt that the elbow was deliberate, I believe the action was defensive in nature.
Cavendish was trying to shoot a gap that wasn’t really there.
Odds are that if Sagan didn’t put up that elbow, he would have found himself on the ground.
While the rules curb contact, it is a part of the sport that’s nearly impossible to eliminate.
Cavendish has definitely been a proprietor of this tactic that has been both met with success and crashing out of races.
Here in the 2010 Tour de Suisse, both Cavendish and the other rider precipitated contact with neither coming out ahead:
In this 2013 Tour de France crash, Cavendish was a clear instigator, yet faced no discipline:
— Patrik Novák (@17pato17) July 5, 2017
And let’s not forget Cavendish isn’t afraid to instigate contact:
One of the first people I turned to for a reaction was Peter Flax:
I dunno. You’re doing 70 kph 30 inches from barrier, someone fighting for wheel shoots gap, hits hip, starts falling. Shit’s gonna happen.
— Peter Flax (@Pflax1) July 4, 2017
Many former pros and authors from the cycling world had strong opinions about the crash. Outspoken sprinting great Mario Cipollini’s had a take:
Neal Rogers from Cycling Tips says:
Upon watching replay 100x: Elbow makes for terrible optics, but was defensive. Cav was already crashing, because Sagan boxed him in #TDF2017
— Neal Rogers (@nealrogers) July 4, 2017
In a series of tweets from Jens Voigt, who’s done more TDF’s than anyone:
Take your time and watch the replay in slowmotion. Then forget about Peter and Cav. Focus on Demarre. He is the first to change trajectoire — Jens Voigt (@thejensie) July 4, 2017
So when we start punish people- maybe consider him first. His move almost chrashed Bouhanni, he is trying to save himself and moves Sagan
— Jens Voigt (@thejensie) July 4, 2017
Then Sagan moves over to the right and there is no space for nobody left. Its either ” be safe and break and loose or maybe win or crash — Jens Voigt (@thejensie) July 4, 2017
So in my private opinion-the disqualification is too much.I am ok with -80 points in green jersey,last place today and timepenalty for sagan
— Jens Voigt (@thejensie) July 4, 2017
Retired pro Ted King didn’t see anything unusual with this crash:
The sharp end of a bike race is frighteningly often just like that: Square peg, round hole. — Ted King (@iamtedking) July 4, 2017
Fellow Competitor Andre Greipel apologized for his opinion after another look:
Sometimes I should watch images before I say something. Apologies to @petosagan as I think that decision of the judge is too hard.
— Andre Greipel (@AndreGreipel) July 4, 2017
David Millar thinks the disqualification was a bad decision that organizers should have reversed:
Pro Racer Katie Compton frames it correctly:
At what point does Cavendish take responsibility 4 causing his own crash? That’s the risk u take when squeezing thru a hole that’s not there — Katie Compton (@KatieFnCompton) July 5, 2017
Strava King Phil Gaimon feels that Sagan didn’t get any special treatment:
It’s so cycling to kick out the guy that the sport needs most.
— Phil Gaimon (@philgaimon) July 4, 2017
And of course, Thread and Spoke was able to jump in and capitalize on the moment:
— THREAD+SPOKE (@threadandspoke) July 5, 2017
Watching it live and in the replays, I know as a Cat 4 racer, I wouldn’t have done the same as Sagan.
Racing isn’t my job and I have to show up for work every Monday.
These were typical race moves made by professionals and under these circumstances the penalty was too harsh.
Had there not been a barrier, I would have been more on the judges side, but this decision makes me think there’s more going on than just the facts.