Grivko was expelled from the tour and fined 200 CHF ($263) over the incident in which he split open race leader Kittel’s left brow, leaving it bloodied.
The pair had been jostling for position in sandy crosswinds that decimated the peloton about halfway into the 200km stage when the altercation occurred.
“I was trying to get back into the line in the crosswinds with one of his young team-mates. He didn’t like that so he pushed me back and I tried to go around, came in between Grivko and his team-mate. I also had to push Grivko a little bit but didn’t take my hands off, nothing,” Kittel said.
“I was trying to talk to the young guy, ask why he’s really taking that risk, and at that moment I got a punch in the face.
"He made a tough choice, Grivko I think."
Television cameras failed to capture the incident but later showed Kittel (Quick-Step) riding with a bloodied face. Initially it was thought the 28-year-old may have been hit by debris from the sand-strewn road, however, Quick-Step team manager Patrick Lefevere tweeted during the race about an altercation with an Astana rider.
Kittel wouldn't accept an apology that the 33-year-old Ukrainian apparently offered via peloton patron Bernhard Eisel (Dimension Data) once the peloton had regrouped, nor a written one published on the Astana Twitter account later.
The German sprinter wasn't in the mix for line honours and with a swollen, shiny and bruised cut to his head was still clearly aggrieved speaking to media after podium presentations as Quick-Step management sought race jurors.
"It’s very clear that he should be disqualified not only for this race, he should get a ban for the next six months maybe," Kittel said.
"It’s a terrible disappointment for cycling, it’s a shame for this race, it’s a shame for the sponsors and I really don’t understand how he can show this kind of reaction.
"It’s a moment where you have a lot of emotion - it’s like a sprint being in the crosswinds - but it doesn’t give him the right to punch someone else in the face. One centimetre more to the right and he would have injured my eye, maybe, because he broke my glasses."
Stage winner John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) said he didn't see the incident but his teammate Kiel Reijnen caught it and agreed the conduct was unacceptable.
“Twenty of us saw it, and I think the right thing to do is suspend the rider for that kind of behaviour. It’s not good for the sport. I think it should be a pretty straightforward deal,” Reijnen said.
The UCI does have rules for ‘various infringements’ that its Disciplinary Commission could act on, further to the disqualification.
Rule 12.1.004 states “anyone who behaves in an incorrect or dishonest fashion with regard to another … shall be penalised by a suspension of up to three months and/or fine of between CHF 100 and CHF 10,000”.
Grivko, speaking to reporters back in the team hotel on Thursday evening, accepted his expulsion from the race but defended himself against Kittel, who he claimed was overly aggressive in the crosswinds.
“You must win with the legs, not with the shoulders. In the sprint, I understand it’s a battle for position but in the middle of the race it’s not normal,” Grivko said.
“I agree with this decision, for me, it’s no problem. But everybody must respect each other. Okay, he’s a leader, but he can’t push riders off the road. It’s dangerous for everybody.”