Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) waved his arm in anger towards Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe) as they crossed the line at the end of stage 1 of the Volta ao Algarve, convinced that the Belgian had wrecked his chances of winning the stage.
Kristoff was behind eventual winner Fabio Jakobsen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) but appeared to have the speed to at least fight for second place until Meeus closed the door on the left-hand side of the road.
Kristoff waved his arm in protest and the race judges soon ruled in his favour, relegating Meeus to the back of the group and elevating Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) to second palace and Kristoff to third.
The podium spot, however, was of little consolation to the veteran Norwegian sprinter.
"I felt good and I felt that maybe I could have been close but I had to stop pedalling," Kristoff told Cyclingnews and other media at the finish in Lagos.
"For me, he changed the line. I was coming on the left side and I had a clear line. But then he moved me into the barrier and I hit a lot of spectators with my shoulder, so I’m not very happy about it."
A video posted online showed that Kristoff had, indeed, knocked a man's cell phone out of his hand with his left shoulder.
📵 #VAlgarve2022 pic.twitter.com/fX6KiJEQktFebruary 16, 2022
Meeus, however, said he didn't change line and felt the decision to take second position away was incorrect.
"We worked well the whole day, and in the end we have been in the right position to avoid the crash. the boys helped me perfect to catch the wheel of Jakobsen, but today I didn’t have the legs to challenge him," said Meeus in a team statement. "Still, I was happy with the result, because after Saudi I lost a few days of training because I didn’t feel well.
"To get relegated afterwards was the wrong decision I believe. I didn’t change line and felt we rode a normal sprint. Anyway I have to accept the decision and I’ll try to fight back the next days.“
Kristoff also accepted there was little he or Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux could do against the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl lead-out train that included Remco Evenepoel and Yves Lampaert but is a sprinter and so is always competitive.
"It was a technical sprint with all the roundabouts and I was a little bit too far back, we didn’t manage to get in front of QuickStep and unfortunately at the end, when you’re a bit behind, there’s always a risk you get blocked," he explained.
"I felt I had a clear line, so I’m a bit disappointed and angry that I couldn’t sprint to the finish."
Kristoff will perhaps have another sprint opportunity on stage 3 to Faro but will have survive over the late climbs and rolling stage profile.
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