Team Columbia-HTC celebrated the stage victory in the Tour of Poland on Wednesday, but the win by Edvald Boasson Hagen came at a steep price for the squad.
Boasson Hagen was leading out race leader André Greipel when Quick Step's Allan Davis placed himself between the two. Greipel, in the fight for his teammate's wheel, took his hands off the bars and grabbed Davis' jersey - a move which the judges later decided was worthy of relegation.
The fight for the sprint at the end of the 239.7km stage was more heated than normal, since Greipel, Davis and the other top sprinters were separated by mere seconds. With the race heading into the mountains tomorrow, the mad dash for the line was their last chance to wear the coveted yellow leader's jersey.
Davis lodged a protest after Greipel's move, but the tension was quickly diffused after the German offered a sincere apology.
"It was a pity today, but [it is] all solved now," Davis told Cyclingnews. "I have respect for André, who came to my room after the finish and said sorry man to man."
Greipel said in his personal newsletter that he instantly regretted taking his hands off the bars. He explained that his action was pure reflex, and was made to protect himself when he and Davis tried to occupy the same space behind Boasson Hagen.
"I have never done that before and was later very upset with myself and how I reacted. I immediately cursed myself and it was clear to me that I would be relegated," said Greipel.
"I can live with that, and I am very happy that nobody was injured by my thoughtless action."
Neither man came out a winner. While Boasson Hagen continued his lead-out uninterrupted and took the stage win, Greipel finished second but was later relegated to last place on the stage, which cost him a critical time bonus.
The decision by the race jury put Silence-Lotto's Jurgen Roelandts into the race lead by six seconds over stage one winner Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil). The disqualification also cost Greipel the lead in the points classification, which also passed onto Roelandts.
The Tour of Poland heads into the mountains on the fifth stage tomorrow with a 163km stage featuring eight classified climbs, while Friday's stage has ten. The race concludes Saturday in Krakow.