Sagan makes his mark on fallen Cavendish
VITTEL: French champion Arnaud Demare claimed his maiden Tour de France stage win when he powered to victory in a crash-marred finale on day four yesterday, while world champion Peter Saganwas penalisedafter sending Mark Cavendish crashing to the ground.
British sprinter Cavendish came down at full speed within a hundred metres of the finish line after being elbowed off balance by Sagan, who took second place but washandeda 30-second penalty by the race jury.
Sagan, who is looking to clinch a record-equalling sixth green jersey for the points classification, was also docked 80 points.
Cavendish, who has 30 Tour stage wins to his name, was trying to race up along the safety barrier on the right-hand side of the road.
“He was coming from behind, I did not have time to react and go left,” said Sagan, who afterwards went to Cavendish’s team bus to apologise.
German John Degenkolb, last years Paris-Roubaix champion, also crashed as he ran into Cavendish on the ground.
The Briton of the Dimension Data team eventually got back on his bike and crossed the line after being attended to by race medics.
Cavendish, wearing a sling, was later taken to the race’s medical centre for checks on his wrist and collarbone.
Cavendish, meanhile, demanded explanations from Sagan.
“I get on with Peter well, but I don’t get ... if he came across it’s one thing, but the elbow...,” said Cavendish.
“I’m not a fan of him putting his elbow in me like that. A crash is a crash. I’d just like to know about the elbow, really. I’d just like to speak to him about it.”
The race’s yellow jersey holder, Geraint Thomas, hit the deck in a separate pile-up near the end, but as the incident occurred within the final three kilometres, he will be credited with the same time as the winner.
Both Thomas anddefending champion Chris Froome, who was held up behind the crash, are fine, Team Sky reported.
“I went to the ground, but no serious damage,” said Thomas, who was also brought down in a crash on Sunday.
Norway’s Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)came home third, but moved up to secondafter Sagan’s demotion, as FDJ rider Demare, who has been in impressive form lately, had time to raise his arms in celebration before crossing the line.
Demare, the 2011 Under-21 world champion, burst into the limelight when he won the ‘Monument’ classic Milan-San Remo last year.
But yesterday’s victory was more special.
“It’s really special because the Tour is something that goes beyond cycling,” said Demare, who for the first time in his career has dedicated teammates for the sprints on a grand tour, after FDJ recruited two strong domestiques in Davide Cimolai and Jacopo Guarnieri.
Demare took the green jersey for the points classification thanks to his win and now has a wide lead of 109 points over Sagan.
Today’s fifth stage is a 160.5km ride from Vittel, ending up La Planche des Belles Filles, a lung-busting 5.9-km climb at an average gradient of 8.5 percent.