• Peter Sagan gets to enjoy a July holiday and wonder what might have been... (Getty)Source: Getty
At the end of stage four came a flurry of activity and one incident that absolutely changed the nature of the Tour in 2017. The expulsion of Peter Sagan will be debated for many years to come…
Rob Arnold

Cycling Central
5 Jul 2017 - 7:43 AM  UPDATED 5 Jul 2017 - 8:03 AM

The jury’s decision is final. There is no appeal. It’s done and Peter has been sent home. That’s a fact. It seems absurd and it sent emotions into overdrive but the rules, they say, are the rules. They’ve been applied. 

Move along, ladies and gentlemen. Nothing to see here. No world champion. No chance of a sixth successive green jersey. No more long hair and goggles and all the things we talked about only this time yesterday – the curious wit of a rider who has made an indelible mark on cycling in a few short years, and all the things that come with his quirky personality.

Sagan kicked out of Tour as Demare wins stage
Arnaud Demare (FDJ) claimed his maiden Tour de France win in what was a crash-marred finale to Stage 4 of the Tour de France. Peter Sagan (BORA-Hansgrohe) was kicked off the race after a decision by the comissaires on the race jury.

Sagan has left the building. So let’s consider the options: decision or indecision. Either way, it was never going to be pretty for the commissaires.

But this is sport. According to the fans, do the umpires ever get it right? Isn’t frustration with the rules part of the weekend tradition at events all around the world. Aren’t we meant to get worked up into a frenzy about rules being applied? (Or not applied?)

It’s all about perception, apparently.

Scroll through the endless commentary on Twitter and it’s clear the decision to evict Peter Sagan from his sixth Tour de France has two sides. Well, three – because it’s comfortable on the fence sometimes.

Let’s just consider the rules first. It’s there in writing: thou shall not elbow another rider into the barriers a fraction of a second before he was going to crash anyway.

Oh no, that’s not what it says. It actually reads as follows:

Article 2.2.036: Riders shall be strictly forbidden to deviate from the lane they selected when launching into the sprint and, in so doing, endangering others.”

There’s no need to explain what actually happened. By now you’ve seen the clip above and tried as best you can to watch it frame by frame. You’ve seen the angles – and we wait for the in crowd footage to reveal something that would make Zapruder proud – but the vision is pretty clear.

There they were, all lined up on the left-hand side of the road. The final lead-out men peel off and the sprinters shift to the right, to the far right… so far right, in fact, that there’s nowhere left to go.

By now Démare is clear. He is in full flight. He is going to win. And he does.

Yippee. Congratulations. You deserve it. (Sorry to say but, except for French fans, your first win at the Tour, Arnaud, is not what stage four is going to be remembered by.)

Behind chaos ensues at around 70km/h.

Bouhanni was near the action but effectively far enough out of the way to not be blamed for anything.

Greipel is busy conceding to the French champion and remains largely removed from the picture.

Kristoff is avoiding trouble and in pursuit of the eventual winner.

Sagan starts his sprint – or rather, in the UCI’s official parlance, he “launches” his sprint. And, as he does, he continues to “deviate from the lane”. It’s not marked out on the road, but he is clearly getting closer to the barricades so we know he’s not going straight.

Meanwhile, Cavendish has also “launched” and he’s committed to an opening that not only doesn’t really exist, it’s getting smaller. In the past, he’s probably squeezed through something like that. He’s been in this situation often enough that we can assume there was one time or another when he fluked it.

(It does happen in cycling. Remember Sir Chris Hoy’s impossible keirin win at the 2012 worlds? There was no gap but then it opened up as though the aura of the Scotsman parted his rivals and let him sneak through for another rainbow jersey… but I digress.)

Cavendish forced out, Sagan protests after Stage 4 crash
World champion Peter Sagan has been expelled from the Tour de France while Mark Cavendish won't start stage five after a controversial high-speed crash today.

All this leads us to what comes next. And, we can safely assume, there’ll be endless reams of commentary and no true conclusion, no alteration in the ruling, and ultimately lead cycling fans to a topic that they can pull up at a dinner party.
Let’s consider a few examples of what might be said (in no particular order of priority):

  • "Cavendish was going to crash anyway."
  • "Sagan just did what is instinctive…"
  • "If it was Bouhanni, they’d have DQed him before Démare crossed the line…"
  • "Démare deviated after launching…"
  • "This is part of sprinting, accidents happen…"
  • "Relegate him by all means but leave him in the race."
  • "If he was French (and not Bouhanni) he’d still be in the race."
  • "Make an exception: he’s Peter Sagan…"
  • "The commissaire is an idiot!"
  • "The commissaire was right…"

We’ll leave it at 10 points and keep it metric. But really it could – and it will – go on for a long time yet. For now, however, there’s no use in considering the coulda, shoulda or woulda options. They don’t exist.

Rules are rules. And they have been applied.

It’s a great shame for the Tour de France and, once again, cycling can look a little silly because the biggest star is no longer in the biggest race. But consider the commissaire: he didn’t want to make that judgement when he woke up before stage four, but he had to make a decision. He did just that.

It’s a shame, but that’s simply how it is. Next stage, please.

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