Bora-Hansgrohe manager backs call for sprint video referee after Sagan's Tour de France DQ
'Everyone needs to know that the rules are fair,' says Ralph Denk
Ralph Denk, the manager of the Bora-Hansgrohe team, has backed calls for some kind of video referee to rule on dangerous riding in sprints after Peter Sagan was disqualified from this year's Tour de France.
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On Thursday Philippe Mariën, the chief UCI commissaire at the Tour de France, told Het Nieuwsblad that he was in favour of adding a video referee who could watch the sprint on television and make quick, well-informed decisions.
"I'm surprised to read that Philippe Mariën has asked for the introduction of a video judge for the sprints because when we tried to show the UCI commissaires high-definition video evidence during the Tour de France that Peter Sagan did nothing wrong they weren't interested in seeing it," Denk told Cyclingnews in reaction to Mariën's comments.
Sagan was disqualified after stage 4 of this year's Tour de France in Vittel. During the sprint, Mark Cavendish attempted to come through on Sagan's right, close to the barriers, and Sagan appeared to move across and stick his right elbow out. Cavendish crashed into the barriers, fracturing his right scapula, and caused a chain reaction that brought down several other riders.
The UCI race commissaires punished Sagan for irregular riding on the stage, which was won by Arnaud Démare.
However, the team insist that the UCI jury refused to hear from Sagan or view high-definition video evidence produced by the Bora-Hansgrohe team.
"It was a fundamental decision and so they should use television and video images to take any final decision, not only rely on the human eye. They do that in other sports, so they should do it on cycling, too," Denk said
Denk was left trying to explain the UCI commissaires' decision to his team and sponsors. He says that losing Sagan cost his team and sponsors 'millions' in terms of publicity.
"It's hard to calculate but Peter was in great shape and had already won a stage. He could have won a lot more. It was a big blow to the team and to our sponsors when he was disqualified. They were obviously very disappointed and they didn't understand why. We still don't understand why," Denk said.
The German team manager went as far as appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after Sagan's disqualification but ultimately failed to convince the CAS to overturn the UCI's decision. He is still angry about the ruling but now he hopes a video referee and a better disciplinary process with input from the riders involved can be introduced.
"The UCI should use every possible piece of information to make the right decision. I hope we can change the way things are done in the future, and video footage is properly used to make any disciplinary decisions," Denk said.
"Everyone in the sport would benefit and we'd avoid future problems in the Tour de France. We have a lot of sponsors who put millions into our sport and so everyone needs to know that the rules are fair and the best possible rules.
"Look at Formula 1; when there's an incident, they can call in the pilots and they listen to them before making a decision. The UCI commissaires never spoke to Peter or even to Mark Cavendish. He didn't really blame Sagan and he was directly involved. But the UCI didn't hear his opinion. That's wrong."
Meanwhile, Sagan has said he's already forgotten about the incident, and will start the Tour de Pologne on Saturday after launching a line of his own branded clothing.
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.