Wednesday afternoon, as Philippe 'It's my birthday and I'll try if I want to' Gilbert and Jan 'Podium chicks are so saucy' Bakelants made their way past the banner that indicated 5.6 kilometres remained to the summit of La Planche des Belles Filles, Le Tour commentator Matthew Keenan remarked, "All those Slovakian flags, they'll be disappointed the world champion isn't here."
They're not the only ones, Keeno.
I already miss him.
Why should who a rider is have anything to do with it?
"What can I do? I can just accept the decision of the jury," he lamented to reporters outside his hotel the morning after the afternoon before, when one of the cruellest injustices in Tour de France history saw him ejected from the race.
Ejected. Expelled. Expunged.
For what? For doing what many sprinters have done before without consequence.
"For me, I do not agree with (the commissaires). I think I didn't do something wrong in the sprint," he said.
Wednesday in Vittel, Peter Sagan did what sprinters are supposed to do. The sprint was taking place down the right side of the road. He, therefore, went to the right. As he said afterwards, he was not aware Mark Cavendish was coming on his inside, and when he became aware, he leaned into the Manxman, using his elbow "as a counterbalance manoeuvre", according to the first words of three-time green jersey champion Robbie McEwen, now the English-language co-commentator with Keenan for the Tour's world feed.
McEwen later changed his tune and said the Slovak should have been DQ'd from the stage though not the race, as did the majority of others, it seems.
I respectfully disagree. Watch the video again (and again and again, if you need to) and you will see Cavendish's wheel already buckling before Sagan's elbow extends out. In fact, The Controversial Right Elbow (quite different from The Controversial Lance Armstrong, it should be noted) had nothing to do with it. It didn't even connect! There was a bump, but that's because Cav' was riding too close to Sagan; the latter was simply defending his territory in the argy-bargy that naturally comes with a full-throttle Tour de France field sprint.
"Is that clear intent from Peter Sagan? No - that is not clear intent," SBS cycling analyst David McKenzie, a former top sprinter himself, emphasised to host Mike Tomalaris at the start of Wednesday evening's telecast.
"And some can argue the reckless rider in that group of sprinters yesterday is in fact Mark Cavendish. And I would say that: Mark Cavendish tried to go through a gap that was not there."
Note that Sagan, by all accounts a fair play competitor, said he was sorry for what happened to Cavendish, but not sorry for his actions.
How can he be?
UCI chief commissaire, Philippe Marien from Belgium, outlined his reason for overturning the initial decision to disqualify him from the stage, be penalised 30 seconds, and docked 35 points from the green jersey classification: "There is always movement in a sprint. I don't think there will ever be a purely correct sprint. But the acts committed by Peter Sagan as a world champion and has got an 'example function' were unpermitted."
In other words, Marien didn't seem to have an issue so much with the line Sagan chose, which means UCI rulebook 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' - is less relevant.
The chief comm's biggest beef was with the act of the wayward Controversial Right Elbow, and the stature of Sagan of what he sees as an exemplar of appropriate conduct.
Why should who a rider is have anything to do with it? When making an adjudication, should we not be talking about "the acts committed by Peter Sagan" the rider, not Peter Sagan the world champion to whom the cycling world monitors his every move? And didn't he just say there will always be movement of one's trajectory when going full boar, head-to-head, elbow-to-elbow, at 70km/h and 200BPM, and that under such conditions, "a purely correct sprint" is as likely as an innocuous tweet from the American President?
"The inconsistencies are so bad with our commissaires in professional cycling that enough is enough," McKenzie bemoaned. "I really think something needs to be done about this and the riders need to stand up as one."
"I'm sorry he fell down. But as you see on the Internet, it was a crazy sprint," said Sagan.
"It wasn't the first one like that and it will not be the last one like that. I wish Mark recovery well and... and that's it."
Yep, that's it. The world champion; the most marketable personality in the cycling world; the guy whose future is so bright, he's gotta wear goggles, has left the building...
Thank you! pic.twitter.com/EjBqrRhYFz
— Peter Sagan (@petosagan) July 5, 2017
And this year's Tour will be all the poorer for it.
Le Tour without Peter Sagan is a Tour in black-and-white.
You're still the best to me, bro. Enjoy Monaco, and see you next July.