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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Michael Phelps still has ‘no desire’ to come back

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Michael Phelps says he has “no desire” to return to competitive swimming, but he is eager to stay involved with the sport and cheer on those who follow in his enormous wake.

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press while promoting a healthy pet food campaign, Phelps said he is excited about the birth of his second child and numerous opportunities away from the pool.

It was around this time four years ago when Phelps got serious about ending his first retirement, but he now seems content with his decision to step away again after the Rio Olympics.

His wife, Nicole, is about four months pregnant. The couple already has a 16-month-old son, Boomer.

“I’ve got no desire, no desire to come back,” the 32-year-old Phelps said flatly.

Phelps has attended a handful of swimming meets since the Rio Games, where the winningest athlete in Olympic history added to his already massive career haul by claiming five gold medals plus a silver. A few months ago, he conceded to the AP that he was eager to see how he would feel about a possible comeback after this year’s world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Turns out, it had no impact.

Phelps said watching others compete “truly didn’t kick anything off or spike any more interest in coming out of retirement again.”

He is eager to follow the development of his heir apparent, Caeleb Dressel, who emerged as the sport’s newest star by winning seven gold medals at Budapest. The 21-year-old Floridian joined Phelps and Mark Spitz as the only swimmers to accomplish that feat at a major international meet.

“I’m happy Caeleb decided to go off this year instead of last year,” Phelps joked. “I’m kind of happy to see him swimming so well when I’m not there.”

With Dressel and Katie Ledecky now leading the American team, the U.S. is expected to remain the world’s dominant swimming country heading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Even without Phelps.

“It’s time to kind of move on,” he said, “and watch other people come into their own.”

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Dutch cyclist returns from horrific Rio crash to win world title

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Dutch road cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten came back from this dramatic Rio Olympic crash to win her first world title on Tuesday, taking the time trial in Bergen, Norway.

“This one is really beautiful without the crash in Rio, but this makes the story really, really special,” an emotional van Vleuten said. “Actually, I still cannot believe it. … This season I’m surprising myself what I can do. To be world champion in the time trial, I never thought I’d be able of this.”

Van Vleuten, 34, covered the 13-mile course in 28 minutes, 50.35 seconds, topping countrywoman Anna ven der Breggen by 12 seconds.

Australian Katrin Garfoot took bronze, 19.02 seconds ahead of Chloe Dygert, a U.S. Olympic silver medalist in track cycling. American Amber Neben, the defending champion, was 11th.

Full results are here.

In Rio, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped over into a ditch during the road race. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course.

She was eventually hospitalized in intensive care.

Van der Breggen went on to win the Olympic title.

Van Vleuten wasn’t out long. She raced at last October’s world championships, placing a career-high fifth in the time trial. She then won La Course in France, a two-day race, in July.

“To be an athlete is to have really ups and downs,” van Vleuten said Tuesday. “Sometimes really downs, but the downs make the ups even more beautiful, I think.”

Van Vleuten’s first celebratory act Tuesday was to climb past two barriers and into her mother’s arms.

“Last year my mum watched the Rio race on television, it was her birthday and she was with lots of my family, so it was a really hard day for her,” Van Vleuten said in a news conference, according to Cyclingnews.com. “My father died in 2008, and so it was really special to have her here and celebrate the good things of cycling together. We’ve dealt with bad things together in the past, so it’s important to be really happy and proud to celebrate and to also remember my father.”

The world championships continue Wednesday with the men’s time trial at 7 a.m. ET on the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live.

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