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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MORE: 10 Tour de France riders to watch

Chris Froome can clinch Tour de France title No. 4 in time trial

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Chris Froome moved one step closer to his fourth Tour de France title by finishing in the same time as his rivals in the 19th of 21 stages on Friday.

Now, Froome focuses on a 14-mile time trial in Marseille on Saturday, where he is heavily favored to defend his 23-second lead over Frenchman Romain Bardet and 29-second advantage on Colombian Rigoberto Uran.

Sunday’s finale — the ride into Paris — is traditionally not a day for attacking the yellow jersey.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold coverage starts at 7:30 a.m. ET on Saturday.

On Friday, Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen won his first Tour stage in six years on the three-week event’s longest day (138 miles). Boasson Hagen pulled away from an eight-rider group in the last two miles and crossed five seconds ahead of German Nikias Arndt.

Froome, Bardet and Uran were in the large group finishing about 10 minutes later.

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Froome, 32, is trying to move within one Tour title of the career record of five shared by Jacques AnquetilEddy MerckxBernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

Froome has been the anchor of cycling’s most powerful team — Team Sky — for five seasons now. Every time the rail-thin Brit has reached the Champs-Élysées in that time, he has been wearing the yellow jersey. The only miss was when he abandoned on Stage 5 in 2014 after crashing three times in two days.

Bardet, 26, was runner-up to Froome in last year’s Tour by 4:05. No Frenchman has won the Tour since Hinault in 1985 — the host nation’s longest victory drought.

Uran, 30 and the 2012 Olympic road race silver medalist, is trying to become the first South American to win the Tour.

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WATCH LIVE: Usain Bolt in final race before world championships

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Usain Bolt races for the last time before his farewell world championships, live during NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold‘s coverage of a Diamond League meet in Monaco on Friday starting at 2 p.m. ET.

Bolt will put his four-year winning streak on the line in a 100m race against his toughest field since the Rio Olympics.

The race start is set for 3:35 p.m. A meet preview is here.

The Jamaican will retire after racing the 100m and 4x100m worlds in London in August, with Monaco being his only other meet left this season.

WATCH LIVE: Usain Bolt races in Monaco — 2 p.m. ET

There are doubts about Bolt’s form with worlds in two weeks. He failed to break 10 seconds in his first two races this season in June before seeing his German doctor to work on his chronically balky back.

Fortunately for Bolt, nobody else is performing that well this season, either. None of his top rivals in recent years — Yohan BlakeAndre De Grasse and Justin Gatlin — have broken 9.90 seconds this season.

The Monaco field includes two of the five fastest men in the world this year — South African Akani Simbine and American Chris Belcher — and four men overall who have broken 10 seconds in 2017.

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MORE: Bolt says women are outperforming men in sprints