UCI commissaires have relegated Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to the rear of the peloton after a dangerous move in the sprint to the line on stage 11 of the Tour de France, dealing a massive blow to the Slovak's chances of winning a record eighth green jersey.
Sagan crossed the line in second place behind Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) in Poitiers, but only after shoulder-barging Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) to get past in the race for the line. Sagan was moving up alongside the barrier when he used his shoulder to move the Belgian out of the way and make space for a run to the line.
According to UCI road race regulations, section 2.12.007, 5.1, "deviation from the chosen line that obstructs or endangers another rider or irregular sprint (including pulling the jersey or saddle of another rider, intimidation or threat, blow from the head, knee, elbow, shoulder, hand, etc.)" will be punished by a 500CHF fine, a points deduction equal to 25 per cent of the points gained by the stage winner, and relegation to last place in the rider's group.
The team of UCI commissaires at the Tour have relegated Sagan will now take 85th place on the stage and deducted the points he gained at the finish (30) as well as a quarter of stage winner Ewan's points (12.5 rounded up to 13).
Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) retains the lead in the points classification on 243 points, having taken 17 points at the intermediate sprint and 30 at the finish after moving up to second behind Ewan. Sagan now lies on 175 points, coincidentally losing the 13 points he had gained at the intermediate sprint.
The three-time world champion said that his move was simply a result of avoiding the barriers as he tried to get past Van Aert and compete for victory.
"Today, I had the speed and, in the sprint, I tried to go on the right side. I passed one rider easily, but then it got really narrow. I had to move to avoid the barriers and as a result, I got relegated. This cost me a lot of points but I still have not abandoned the fight for the green jersey."
Bora-Hansgrohe directeur sportif Enrico Poitschke accepted the decision after the stage, saying that Sagan didn't mean to barge Van Aert as hard as he did.
"In the sprint also Peter was in a good position, he was then sometimes blocked and saw in the last metres a possibility to go [down] the barriers and try to win the stage. He touched Van Aert harder than he'd have liked to do it and in the end he was relegated and that's far away from perfect but we have to accept that."
Van Aert, meanwhile, was adamant that Sagan had done wrong, saying that he scared and that sprints are dangerous enough without adding rider-to-rider contact into the mix.
"I think it's not done to do it like that, actually. In my opinion, I sprinted in a completely straight line and start completely on the right at the borders," Van Aert said. "He just tried to create space for him and for me it's not allowed to do that. I think it's already dangerous enough, and I was really surprised and shocked in the moment that I felt something. I was at maximum effort, so I was really scared.
"In the first moment I was so shocked and surprised that I was angry, and I don't use a really nice word to him. Afterwards I tried to say to him that it really wasn't done and I don't like it what he was doing, but the only thing that came back was other strong words, so it was hard to have a conversation."
The battle for green will go on, though arguably the only true sprint finish remaining in the Tour is the final stage to Paris. However, with nine road stages left to race, a total of 180 points towards the green jersey are still on offer.
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