The moment Cavendish goes down and Sagan puts out his elbow
Peter Sagan’s disqualification from the Tour de France on Tuesday for what the race jury deemed was a violent act toward Mark Cavendish in the stage 4 sprint has sent shock waves through the cycling world.
Sagan, the reigning world champion, is without a doubt the most high-profile rider excluded from the race for sporting reasons, but the French Grand Tour has a history of raising emotions and efforts to breaking point.
Below is a brief recap of some of the more recent infractions that ended riders’ races long before – and in one case after – the finish in Paris on the Champs-Elysees.
Tom Steels – 1997
Tom Steels was disqualified from the race in 1997 for throwing a water bottle at Frederic Moncassin during the stage 6 sprint, which was initially won by Erik Zabel before the German was relegated for irregular sprinting. The stage victory went to Jeroen Blijlevens, and Steels went home.
Steels brushed up against the jury again in 1999, when he won the sixth stage but was relegated to the back of the group for pushing Jan Svorada with his hip and then bumping Mario Cipollini before crossing the line with his arms raised.
Jeroen Blijlevens – 2000
In one of the more bizarre incidents that led to disqualification from the race, Jeroen Blijlevens was sent packing after actually finishing on the Champs-Elysees. The Dutchman sought out American Bobby Julich on the grand French boulevard and delivered several blows before UCI commissaires could break things up.
Despite having finished the race, his results were scratched as if he had not participated.
Mark Renshaw – 2010
Cavendish and his crew were involved in another dust up that led to a disqualification, but this time it was the Manxman’s lead-out man Mark Renshaw who got the sanction in 2010 for head butting Julian Dean in the finishing straight.
Dean was leading out Tylar Farrar, while Renshaw was piloting Cavendish toward the line. When Dean tried to edge in, Renshaw literally used his head to move him out of the way. It worked and Cavendish won, but Renshaw was sent home for “violent contact.”
Eduardo Sepúlveda – 2015
Illegal contact is not the only thing that will get you removed from the Tour de France, of course, and in 2015 Eduardo Sepúlveda may have found the most creative way to get sent home.
Sepúlveda broke his chain on the climb to Mende during stage 15. When his team car passed him and pulled over 100 metres up the road, Sepúlveda hopped in another team’s car to hasten his trip to his team mechanic.
The jury apparently frowns on riding in cars for part of the race, and Sepúlveda received the ultimate sanction.
Violence doesn’t always lead to a disqualification, however. Witness the 1994 Tour when Neil Stehens and Raul Alcala took exception to each other as they climbed Mont Ventoux. The fight started on the bikes but both riders quickly dismounted and continued. Alcala eventually landed a blow that broke Stephens’ nose. Officials didn’t see the fight, however, and both riders remained in the race.
A famous conflagration between legendary Irishman Sean Kelly and big Belgian Eric Vanderaerden in 1985 led to relegations, but neither rider was disqualified as they pushed and shoved their way to the line. Vaderaerden crossed the line first, but Francis Castaing was the winner in the record books after Vanderaerden and Kelly were docked.
Eventual winner Bernard Hinault, never one known to be a shrinking violet himself, took a dim view of the sprinters’ antics.
"When I see that, I prefer not to participate in the final (sprint)," he said.