Sa­gan ac­cepts ex­pul­sion as Froome licks lips

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

World cham­pion Peter Sa­gan is out of the Tour de France af­ter ac­cept­ing his dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion for rac­ing dan­ger­ously, with the race favourites set for their first moun­tain bat­tle. The 27-year-old Slo­vak had been hop­ing for a last minute re­prieve af­ter his Bora team ap­pealed against his sanc­tion for hav­ing el­bowed Mark Cavendish into the bar­ri­ers dur­ing the sprint fin­ish to Tues­day’s fourth stage.

But yes­ter­day morn­ing, Sa­gan ad­mit­ted de­feat in his bid to ride on. “I can only ac­cept the de­ci­sion of the jury, but I dis­agree. I don’t think I’ve done any­thing wrong in the sprint,” said Sa­gan. Cavendish was taken to hos­pi­tal af­ter the crash where he was di­ag­nosed with a bro­ken shoul­der blade, forc­ing him out of the Tour. Sa­gan had el­bowed him into the bar­ri­ers dur­ing a mus­cu­lar sprint fin­ish, with the race com­mis­sion later de­cid­ing to ex­pel the Bora rider for hav­ing “en­dan­gered some of his col­leagues se­ri­ously”.

Bora re­acted late on Tues­day say­ing they had ap­pealed the de­ci­sion and asked that Sa­gan be re­in­stated, al­though that sce­nario was al­ways un­likely. “In the sprint I didn’t know that Mark Cavendish was be­hind me,” protested Sa­gan. “Mark was com­ing re­ally fast from the back and I just didn’t have time to re­act and to go left.

“He came into me and he went into the fence.” For his part, Cavendish said he found Sa­gan’s el­bow in­ex­pli­ca­ble. “I was a lit­tle bit con­fused with the el­bow, that’s some­thing I’d like to speak to him about,” said the 32-year-old win­ner of 30 Tour stages.

‘MAS­SIVELY DIS­AP­POINTED’

“I’m ob­vi­ously mas­sively dis­ap­pointed to get this news about the frac­ture,” said Cavendish. As for Wed­nes­day’s 160.5km fifth stage from Vit­tel to La Planche des Belles Filles, it has reign­ing cham­pion Chris Froome lick­ing his lips in an­tic­i­pa­tion. It was there in 2012 that he won his first ever stage on the Tour, when he went on to fin­ish sec­ond over­all to Bri­tish com­pa­triot and Sky team-mate Bradley Wig­gins. “It was a re­ally mem­o­rable vic­tory for me,” said Froome, a three-time Tor win­ner since.

“I’m cer­tainly look­ing for­ward to go­ing back there.” Ac­cord­ing to Aus­tralia’s 2011 Tour win­ner Cadel Evans, this stage will give a big clue as to who will win the Grand Tour when it reaches Paris on July 23.

“If you look back at all the re­sults, cer­tainly of the Tours I rode, the re­sult of the first moun­tain fin­ish is of­ten very close to the GC (over­all stand­ings) in Paris,” he said. Now re­tired, Evans is the only Aus­tralian and only rider for the BMC team to have won the Tour. But he has in Richie Porte a more than ca­pa­ble suc­ces­sor for both those roles. And cur­rent race leader Geraint Thomas, Froome’s Sky team-mate, be­lieves Porte will be look­ing to at­tack at the end of Wed­nes­day’s stage, which starts off quite flat but climbs to more than 1,000 me­tres by the fin­ish.

“Richie is go­ing to try for sure. He is in great form and the climb is per­fect for him,” said Thomas. De­spite wear­ing the yel­low jer­sey, the 31-year-old Welsh­man in­sisted he has no per­sonal de­signs in this Tour other than help­ing his team leader.

“I’m fully com­mit­ted to Froomey and winning the Tour with him,” he said. The stage ends with a steep first cat­e­gory climb, 5.9km long at an av­er­age 8.5 per­cent gra­di­ent, al­though the very end rises to 20 per­cent. “It’s not a long climb,” said Froome.

“We shouldn’t see big time dif­fer­ences, but def­i­nitely it’s tough enough to show ex­actly where all the ri­vals are at.” —AFP

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