Sagan's started the stage second in the standing for the sprint classification, 21 points in arrears of Bennett, and looked to have made a small dent in Bennett's lead as he just squeaked out second place ahead of the Irishman on Stage 11.
Had the placing stood, Sagan would have reduced the gap to just 15 points, with some hilly stages coming up where the seven-time green jersey winner would have been optimistic on taking a nice swag of points.
As it was the commissaires' panel relegated Sagan to last in the group, applying section 2.12.007, 5.1 of the UCI rules and regulations. That negated his 30 points, and also increased Bennett's position from third to second, bumping him up from 20 to 30 points.
Sagan also had a penalty imposed upon him, taking away 25 per cent of the points awarded to the stage winner. That was 50 points divided by four for 12.5, rounded up to 13 points for the penalty. Coincidentally, it was exactly the same as the 13 points that Sagan gained at the intermediate sprint point, meaning that the three-time world champion stayed at the same points tally as pre-stage.
The battle in the green jersey opens up dramatically in Bennett's favour as a result, now stretching out to 68 points with Bennett on 243 points and Sagan on 175.
"Today, I had the speed and, in the sprint, I tried to go on the right side," said Sagan of the incident. "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."
Sagan will now look to potential sprint finishes on Stages 12 and 19, the latter offer full points for the first across the line, but may prove too hilly for Bennett to be able to arrive with the front group.
BORA-hansgrohe sports director Enrico Poitschke offered this explanation of the stage, which the German team had hoped would be a bit harder to advantage the more versatile Sagan over his fellow sprinters.
"We were hoping to have a bigger group escape, but in the end, it was just one rider," said Poitschke. "Later on, we tried to attack with Lukas in a second group in order to make the stage harder. That didn't work, but in the finale our goal was once again to make it as hard as possible, so we attacked once more and that move worked very well.
"In the sprint, Peter was in a good position but at times he was blocked and in the final metres, he saw a possibility that he could go for the win if he rode close to the barriers. He touched Van Aert harder than what he would have liked to, so he was relegated. That's far from perfect but we have to accept it."
Bennett was happy with the result, despite the anguish of finishing behind Ewan in the dash to the line.
“The guys did a fantastic job looking after me and I got to enjoy another beautiful day in this nice jersey and get a lot of support and applause from the roadside fans," said Bennett. "The sprint was really nervous and I found myself in the front too early, so I drifted back a bit, but it was too late.
"Despite that, I tried to limit my losses and get the most out of it, get the best result I could. Would have been nice to add another win, but second is still a strong result in these conditions, especially as it helps me increase my lead in the points standings.”
Speaking about the Sagan incident, Bennett seemed to come to the Slovak's defence suggesting it may have been excessive to relegate him.
"A big part of sprinting is bumping shoulders and rubbing shoulders," said Bennett. "I have to see it, I really don’t know what happened, but when did sprinting get soft?"
The Tour de France continues tonight with Stage 12, the longest of this year’s race, a 218-kilometre course similar to an Ardennes classic, from Chauvigny to Sarran. Watch the race on the SBS ŠKODA Tour Tracker from 7.40pm AEST, with television coverage starting from 9.30 AEST on SBS HD.