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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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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