Wednesday's fifth stage of the Tour de Suisse departed two minutes late as the colleagues of HTC-Columbia sprinter Mark Cavendish staged a start-line protest against his actions on the previous day.
Cavendish was deemed responsible for the dramatic crash which happened in the final metres of the sprint on Tuesday in Wettingen by the race jury, who decided that he veered off his line before running into Cervelo's Heinrich Haussler and sending both to the pavement in the path of the entire peloton.
The Manxman was penalized 25 points, 30 seconds and 200 Swiss Francs, but the injuries from his crash and the ire of his colleagues who lost teammates to the crash is further punishment.
"We just want to send a message to Cavendish to ask him for more respect," said AG2R directeur sportif Gilles Mas to AFP. Two of his riders took dramatic tumbles, with Lloyd Mondory having to quit the race from his injuries. Mas described his rider Sebastien Hinault being elbowed by Cavendish as another example of the sprinter's excessively aggressive riding.
Cavendish deflected the blame, saying, "I'm not going to say that I'm not at fault but I don't think I should have been held as the sole responsible. It's the worst fall of my career, the worst injuries that I've suffered. But there are riders who are in a worse state than me."
Haussler, Caisse d'Epargne's Arnaud Coyot and Mondory all abandoned the race with injuries, but dozens of other riders who crashed are continuing the race despite their wounds.