Mark Cavendish: It took ‘courage’ to disqualify Peter Sagan

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VITTEL, France (AP) — Mark Cavendish commended the “courage” of Tour de France jurors for disqualifying world champion Peter Sagan for a horrific crash that took both of them out of the race on Tuesday.

Speaking Wednesday, before the Tour set off without him from the spa town of Vittel on Stage 5, Cavendish said his immediate concern after he hit the deck was a profusely bleeding finger on his right hand.

“There was just a puddle of blood on the floor. I thought, ‘I’m going to bleed to death here.’ But my teammates were around and they helped me to my feet,” he said.

The winner of 30 Tour stages in his stellar career was later diagnosed with a broken right shoulder blade and withdrew from the race. Sagan, who appeared to elbow Cavendish before he fell at high speed, stayed on his bike but was disqualified for endangering Cavendish and other riders in the sprint finish at Vittel.

Cavendish said: “It takes a lot of courage … to eliminate the world champion from the Tour de France.”

Cavendish said he bore no hard feelings toward Sagan and that his actions didn’t appear malicious. He stressed that they are good friends and said Sagan called him Tuesday evening while he was being examined in hospital.

Sagan’s explanation for extending his right elbow into Cavendish’s path — as the Briton was speeding up alongside the Slovak, shaving the barriers — was that he was just trying to stay upright.

“He said it was keeping himself balanced, so it was nice to know. He said he didn’t know it was me coming up,” Cavendish said. “It was the elbow which I said I was confused about. I spoke to Peter about that. Whether or not, it was intentional, it doesn’t look great.”

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Cavendish dismissed suggestions that he was trying to squeeze into a space that was too small.

“I know what kind of gaps I can fit through,” he said.

Cavendish praised Sagan for immediately coming to his team bus after the crash to apologize.

“It was an honorable thing to see Peter there at the bus, already come to apologize,” he said. “It shows our relationship, shows the man he is and I really appreciate that more than anything.”

However, he also commended the jurors for their decision to disqualify Sagan, calling them “among the most experienced jury that I’ve ever witnessed at the Tour de France.”

“It’s just sad that we’ll both be out of the Tour de France,” Cavendish said of Sagan and himself. “We’ve spoken, we’re fine.”

The Tour race director, Thierry Gouvenou, told The Associated Press that he supported the jury’s disqualification of Sagan. He said Sagan “also was at fault” in a first crash that took down more than a dozen riders in the final stretch Tuesday, before the crash that wiped out Cavendish and others in the finishing sprint.

“Ultimately, there are no attenuating circumstances,” Gouvenou said. “I think they made a good choice.”

“We all complain about the crashes in the first week of the Tour. It gets to the point where the riders just have to respect each other.”

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New generation of male figure skaters owns spotlight at worlds; preview

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Nobody in the men’s field at figure skating worlds owns an Olympic or world title for the first time since 1985. This could lead to the best U.S. men’s results in years.

Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan combined to win every gold medal since 2011, but all of them ended their seasons at the Olympics.

This week in Milan, the four leading men, who just competed in their first Olympics, are all 20 years or younger. And that includes two Americans.

Nathan Chen can become the first world singles champion from the U.S. since Evan Lysacek in 2009. Chen and Vincent Zhou could be the first U.S. men to finish in the top five together since Lysacek and Johnny Weir in 2005. Chen, Zhou and Max Aaron could make up the best U.S. trio at a worlds in more than 20 years.

Start with Chen. The 18-year-old said he planned to compete this week regardless of what happened at the Olympics, but after his struggles in the team event and individual short programs, the quad master nailed his free skate, came home to California and said he took maybe one day off of training before this event.

Chen is one of three men in the gold-medal hunt, along with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China. While Chen largely struggled at the 2017 Worlds and in PyeongChang, Uno and Jin each made the podium at both events. And each can come close to or equal Chen in quad numbers.

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Zhou, 17, has a chance to become the youngest man to earn a world medal since Hanyu in 2012. Or the first man to win the world junior title one season and make the world senior podium the next since Yevgeny Plushenko in 1997-98.

Zhou is riding momentum. He struggled in the fall and entered nationals in January ranked fifth among Americans for the season. He placed third to make the Olympic team and then landed three clean quads in his Olympic free skate to jump from 12th to sixth.

“I did better there than a lot of people thought I would,” Zhou told NBC Sports research last week. “I knew I was capable of that all season.

“I want to reach my ultimate goal of being Olympic champion, and my best chance is in 2022 … because by 2026 I will probably be old and creaky with four prosthetic limbs.”

Aaron made it to Milan after Olympian Adam Rippon gave up his spot, and the top two alternates (Jason Brown and Ross Miner) both declined. Still, Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, is seeded seventh in the men’s field based on top scores this season.

NBC Sports figure skating researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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Carolina Kostner the sentimental favorite at figure skating worlds

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Olympic champion Alina Zagitova is without question the favorite at this week’s world figure skating championships, especially after the sprightly Russian’s training partner and rival Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrew because of injury.

She won’t be the sentimental favorite, though.

That would be Carolina Kostner, the ageless Italian star who could be competing at worlds for the last time on home soil. The 2012 champion and six-time world medalist seemed to indicate that retirement could be looming after she finished fifth at the PyeongChang Games, where she was chosen to carry the Italian flag at the Closing Ceremony.

Kostner will have a huge home crowd behind her when the event begins Wednesday in Milan.

“Decisions like that should never be taken in a hot moment. It will come naturally,” said Kostner, who no longer can compete with the sport’s high-fliers when it comes to technical marks, but whose elegant artistry and presentation often make up the difference.

“She is an example of perseverance, of a long-lasting athlete,” Medvedeva said. “I have trouble imagining how someone can stay in that shape for a very long time. When you see people like Carolina, you understand that if she can do something, then that something is possible. If you love what you do, you put all of yourself into it, like Carolina Kostner.”

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When asked about retirement, Kostner brought up her cousin, Isolde Kostner, who won three Olympic Alpine skiing medals before deciding to step away from competition.

“She stopped skiing shortly before the (2006) Olympics in Italy,” Caroline Kostner said. “Many did not understand why she wouldn’t pull through because it was her home country, and she said, ‘You will feel strongly when it is time to stop.’ And I haven’t felt it yet.”

The biggest story at the world championships in an Olympic year tends to be who is missing rather than who shows up. The grind of competing for an entire season builds toward the quadrennial event, and athletes who medal or intend to retire rarely press on to worlds. Then there are the injuries, which accumulate during the year.

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