July 4, 2017 – British sprint great Mark Cavendish was taken to hospital by ambulance after a spectacular crash in the sprint finish to the Tour de France fourth stage won by France’s Arnaud Demare on Tuesday. Race leader Geraint Thomas was also taken down in a separate crash in the final kilometer of the 207.5km stage from Mondorf-les-Bains to Vittel. World champion Peter Sagan was eliminated from the Tour de France as race organizers blamed him for causing the crash.

“We’ve decided to disqualify Peter Sagan from the Tour de France 2017 as he endangered some of his colleagues seriously in the final meters of the sprint which happened in Vittel. We will apply article 12.104 of the rules of the UCI… in which case commissaires (the race jury) can decide to enforce a judgement to disqualify a rider,” said the president of the race commission Philippe Marien.

AFP / Image: James Startt

Briton Thomas, who had warned on Monday that he just wanted to stay clear of trouble, hit the deck for the second time in three stages.

“It’s ok, both times I managed to take off quite a bit of speed (before crashing),” said Thomas. “I’m used to crashing, so it’s fine, I’m all ok.”

His crash came on a bend just inside the final kilometer but Cavendish’s fall looked more damaging, just inside the final 100 meters. Cavendish was baulked by world champion Peter Sagan against the metal barriers on the side of the road and crashed hard, with two riders, including German John Degenkolb, hitting the stricken Briton as they somersaulted over the top of him.

Cavendish did finish the stage but later left his Dimension Data team bus with his arm in a sling as he was taken to hospital by ambulance.

“Injury-wise I’m going to go and get it checked out,” he told a scrum of reporters outside his Dimension Data team bus. “I will definitely need stitches in this finger, it’s bleeding a lot. With the shoulder, it might be something to do with a previous injury, it’s sat backwards so I’m not sure if I’ve done something to the ligament. I’m not a doctor but from the feelings I’m not optimistic.”

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But Cavendish said Sagan had to explain his actions. “I was just following Demare round, and then Sagan just came over,” he added. “I get on with Peter well but I don’t get it. If he came across it’s one thing, but the elbow? I’m not a fan of him putting his elbow in like that. I get on with Peter, a crash is a crash, but I’d just like to know about the elbow.”

“Mark Cavendish hurt his shoulder and hand. On his way to the hospital for further examinations,” said Dimension Data on Twitter. “If I was Sagan, I’d apologize for that,” Cavendish’s sports director at Dimension Data Roger Hammond told journalists.

Sagan did go to the Dimension Data bus after the race to speak to Cavendish, who crashed out of the 2014 Tour in the first stage after breaking his collarbone in a sprint finish fall he later admitted was his fault.

Andre Greipel’s manager at Lotto-Soudal Marc Sergeant said the German was fuming at Sagan for his sprint tactics.

“I asked Andre. He was quite pissed (off) by the attitude of Sagan, making some moves which he shouldn’t make,” Sergeant told Eurosport. “Yesterday it was the same thing in the intermediate sprint, he gave an elbow to Andre and he (Greipel) was a little bit pissed (off) yesterday already.

“Twice in a row is too much. Greipel was saying, ‘He isn’t my friend anymore from now on’.”

At the finish, Sagan, 27, had initially told reporters he didn’t understand Greipel’s ire. “Greipel was angry with me but I don’t know why, you’d have to ask him,” said Sagan.

But those watching television pictures had no doubt about what they’d seen. “I’ve now been able to watch the replay of the sprint a few times. Sagan deserves DQ on that one. Hope @MarkCavendish is ok. That was heavy,” Australian Robbie McEwan, a former cyclist and top sprinter himself having won 12 Tour stages, said on Twitter.

While Thomas was able to get up and ride on to the finish, Cavendish had needed medical assistance as he lay on the ground in obvious pain. In all the furore of another bunch pile-up, French champion Demare’s achievement of becoming the first Frenchman to win a Tour stage in a sprint finish since 2006 was almost lost.

“It’s amazing, beating all the best sprinters like that at the Tour de France is something I’d hoped for, for a long time,” said Demare. “Now I’ve managed it once, I think I can do it again.”

His win allowed him to claim the sprinters’ green jersey from German Marcel Kittel, winner of Sunday’s second stage but who was held up by the first crash and unable to contest the sprint. Sagan took second place but after his disqualification Norway’s Alexander Kristoff was given second on the stage.