Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) were relegated from the Tour de France stage 8 sprint after two separate head-butting incidents during the finale into Amiens, with the race jury showing no tolerance for this type of aggression.
Greipel and Gaviria finished second and third behind stage winner Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), respectively, but were placed to the back of the lead group, losing the six and four second time bonuses.
In the final 900-metres Andre Greipel directed his head and upper body towards Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb) in an attempt to hold the wheel in front of him. A separate incident with 250 metres remaining saw a squeeze among the leading riders with Gaviria coming close to the barriers on the left-hand side of the finishing straight. Gaviria then pushed his head and upper body against Greipel twice in the final metres.
Speaking to the media immediately after the stage and before the relegation had been confirmed, Greipel claimed he held his line and didn't box Gaviria in. However, the German also made no reference to the earlier incident with Arndt for which he was relegated.
"You'll have to ask him [Gaviria] because I just held my line and he tried to push me away three or four times but of course I'm not easy to move out of the way. I just held my line and that's it.
"He was complaining about why I closed him in but I just held my line. It's a normal sprint, but the commissaires will have to say something.
"It's not up to me, I think there are enough TV pictures, there are video referees to judge something and for the moment I'm just disappointed.
"I think the team did a really good job, we worked really well together in the last kilometres and after that I just went on the FDJ train, Peter Sagan made a really good jump to surprise us and I immediately went in his slipstream but then Gaviria tried to push me away and of course I had to stop pedalling a few times.
"I think of course during sprinting you have a lot of adrenaline and sometimes you react like you don't want to react. Maybe he's a bit young, I'm quite old already but still, I'm experienced enough to keep my line, I think I'm quite a fair sprinter. I think there was no problem with my position."
Gaviria, Lefevere defend
After the finish, Gaviria, visibly angry, shouted at Greipel and refused to speak to the media both at the finish line and back at the Quick-Step Floors team bus. He did appear on the steps to greet some travelling Colombian fans, and one television camera tried to hijack the photo opportunity.
"You never know in a sprint," Gaviria said.
"You think it was OK?
"Have you seen it yourself after the race?"
"No more questions."
Outside the team bus, Quick-Step Floors manager Patrick Lefevere re-watched the sprint on a mobile phone with sports director Brian Holm before discussing the incident with Cyclingnews.
Told that Greipel was not happy with Gaviria, Lefevere said: "And Fernando was not happy with Andre.
"You know sprinters. Richeze started too early then he saw that Fernando was not there, so he stopped, then looked and started again. Then Sagan goes, but he's also a sprinter so he knows that Gaviria is on the left, and he goes to the left side with Greipel. There's enough room to go, but then Greipel closes Gaviria. He does with his head once, and then the second time Greipel goes in the front wheel of Gaviria and broke his front wheel.
"I cannot say it was a wrong move [from Greipel], because in a sprint everything happens, everyone tries to do their sprint in their own way. Normally said whoever is in the lead can choose the way to sprint, but you will always see there are 10 metres on the other side and sprinters always go in the small gap."
As for the head movements, the likes of which have incurred more severe punishment in the past, Lefevere denied they were malicious.
"I think the first time, the only reason was not to fall into the barriers," he said. "The second time he wanted to make space. He didn't hit, he just pushed to try to make space. He's a track rider, you know. But I don't think you can do it with Greipel. He's 85 kilos."
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