Another left with fractured collarbone
By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia
Tour Down Under organisers have taken an unprecedented step in throwing Italian Elia Rigotto (Team Milram) off the tour after an altercation - that officials have described as "very vicious" - which left Australia's Mathew Hayman (Rabobank) with a fractured left collarbone. While riders have been excluded from stages in the past nine editions, Rigotto is the first rider to ever be disqualified from the entire race.
"Hayman was at the front, looked over his right shoulder to see if [Graeme] Brown was there," explained race commissaire Michael Robb. "He didn't deviate from his line and number 41 [Elia Rigotto] passed on his left hand side and as he came level with him he very viciously struck him on his upper arm and shoulder with his head.
"Very, very vicious and of course Hayman then went down," reiterated Robb.
Hayman underwent surgery on Friday evening after the brutal fall in the final 300 metres of today's Tour Down Under stage four. "Surgeons will insert a plate and screws to stabilise the break and facilitate a faster recovery," read an event release. "Tour Down Under Race Doctor Peter Barnes says he expects it will be four or five days before Hayman is able to resume riding." The surgery was reported a success.
The injury is another disappointing setback for Hayman, who suffered a broken elbow in April's Gent Wevelgem last season. The Australian rider also crashed in the lead up to the 2004 Paris-Roubaix, damaging his hip and upper leg.
"It was as vicious a headbutt as I've seen in a long time," reported Robb, who has been an international commissaire since 1991. "A very severe headbutt, a very serious incident."
Robb added that the traditional method of sprinters leaning their heads against one another - similar to Robbie McEwen and Mark Renshaw's clash at the Tour Down Under's final stage last year - was very different to Rigotto's actions in today's sprint. "Guys will just put their heads together to get a little space, but this was very different," he said.
Rigotto was fined 200 Swiss Francs under UCI Article 10.1 for "deviating from selected lane endangering other riders".