Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) angrily waved his finger at Wout Van Aert after the high-speed Tour de France sprint finish to stage 3 in Sønderborg, convinced that the Belgian had closed him against the barriers and so disrupted his sprint.
Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) avoided the two, cutting down the middle of the road to win the stage, while Van Aert finished second and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) was third.
Sagan bumped Van Aert twice on his thigh in the final metres so that the Belgian did not close him into the barriers and pointed his finger at him as soon as they crossed the line.
As Sagan cooled down in the shower, some at the TotalEnergies were hoping the UCI Video Assistant Referee would intervene and punish Van Aert for moving across from the centre of the road towards the barriers and Sagan. However, the yellow jersey was given the benefit of the doubt and kept his second place and extended his overall lead to seven seconds thanks to a six-second time bonus.
Sagan was happy to be in the sprinting action after a difficult spring with TotalEnergies and a recent third bout of COVID-19 but he was not impressed with Van Aert's move across the road.
However he bit his tongue hard when speaking to the media, including Cyclingnews, at the team bus.
"I cannot judge, we have a jury for that," Sagan said. "From the image on TV you can see... I am happy that I am still here in one piece."
Sagan was a little less diplomatic when speaking in Italian but had to accept the race judges decision not to punish Van Aert, even if other riders have been punished for far less in recent months.
"For sure he moved," he said. "I was already near the barriers and so to avoid touching them, I had to push him back."
Sagan was asked whether Van Aert's move was a dangerous one. "It wasn't dangerous, it was bad for cycling's image," he replied.
Sagan was coming up the right hand side of the road when Van Aert, Groenewegen, and Jasper Philipsen roared down the middle of the road. Van Aert pulled hard with Groenewegen and Philipsen coming on his left, leaving Sagan to get squeezed against the barriers.
Van Aert, meanwhile, said he was not aware of Sagan's concern.
TotalEnergies manager Jean-René Bernaudeau was disappointed to see Sagan miss out on victory but suggested that seeing Sagan so upset was good.
"It's good that Sagan is not happy, when he's like that it's because he has the legs, and the main thing is that he has found them," Bernaudeau suggested to French TV.
"The Tour has only just started and there will be other occasions. He is perhaps the best sprinter when things get difficult. He didn't win this time but the good news is that Sagan is really good."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.