AP

Peter Sagan cleared over Tour de France disqualification

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PARIS (AP) — The UCI ruled Tuesday that Peter Sagan did not intentionally elbow Mark Cavendish during a sprint finish at the Tour de France in a crash that led to the Slovak rider’s disqualification.

The governing body of cycling said in a statement that it has ended its legal dispute with the three-time world champion, a few hours before a scheduled hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Sagan was sent home from the three-week race after clashing with his British rival during the fourth stage (video here). The incident forced Cavendish to abandon with a broken shoulder.

Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team immediately appealed the race jury’s decision to allow its rider to finish the race but the request was denied by CAS.

“Having considered the materials submitted in the CAS proceedings, including video footage that was not available at the time when the race jury had disqualified Peter Sagan, the parties agreed that the crash was an unfortunate and unintentional race incident,” the UCI said.

UCI president David Lappartient said lessons will be drawn from the case and wants a “support commissaire” to assist race jury members “with special video expertise” at the main events of the UCI World Tour from next season.

“The past is already forgotten. It’s all about improving our sport in the future,” Sagan said. “I am happy that my case will lead to positive developments, because it is important for our sport to make fair and comprehensible decisions, even if emotions are sometimes heated up.”

Sagan’s explanation for extending his right elbow into Cavendish’s path was that he was just trying to stay upright.

The crash occurred about 50 meters from the end of the stage and Cavendish slammed into the barriers along the road, with two other riders plowing over the British sprint specialist, a winner of 30 Tour stages.

Cavendish said at the time his rival’s move didn’t appear malicious.

“It has always been our goal to make clear that Peter had not caused Mark Cavendish’s fall. This was Peter’s position from Day 1,” Bora-Hansgrohe manager Ralph Denk said. “No one wants riders to fall or get hurt but the incident in Vittel was a race accident as can happen in the course of a sprint.”

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Mikaela Shiffrin beaten in first slalom of Olympic season (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin acknowledged it after taking second in the season-opening slalom Saturday. The American has a rival in the discipline that she has dominated the last five years.

Slovakian Petra Vlhova edged Shiffrin for the second straight World Cup slalom, this time overcoming a first-run deficit to win by one tenth of a second in Levi, Finland.

Shiffrin, the reigning Olympic, world and World Cup champion in slalom, relinquished a .21 lead over Vlhova from the morning run.

Swiss Wendy Holdener was third, a distant 1.35 seconds back. Full results are here.

Shiffrin was aiming for her 27th World Cup slalom win and 32nd overall. Instead, Vlhova, who is 22 like Shiffrin, won her third career World Cup race, all slaloms.

“Mikaela, she’s always fast, but now I am fast,” said Vlhova, who was given a reindeer for the World Cup victory.

Vlhova also beat Shiffrin at the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., last season, after Shiffrin had already clinched her first World Cup overall title and her fourth World Cup slalom season title in five years.

Shiffrin and Vlhova trained together this week.

“In all honesty, Petra skis like Mikaela more than Mikaela skis like Mikaela,” Shiffrin’s mom, Eileen, said, according to the Denver Post. “Their coaches are always on the hill, videoing Mikaela. I think Petra is going to give Mikaela a real run for her money.”

Shiffrin said she felt OK on Saturday, bur her timing was off on essential turns.

“I expect that it’s going to be a really cool fight with [Vlhova] this year,” Shiffrin said.

Shiffrin’s slalom dominance was on full display the last three seasons. At one point, she had a streak of seven straight World Cup slalom wins and victories in 15 straight slaloms that she started overall.

She missed five World Cup slaloms in the 2015-16 season due to a knee injury.

The men race a slalom in Levi on Sunday. A broadcast schedule is here.

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Levi Women’s Slalom
1. Petra Vlhova (SVK) — 1:49.98
2. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — +.10
3. Wendy Holdener (SUI) — +1.35
21. Resi Stiegler (USA) — +4.15

Veronika Velez Zuzulova, top Mikaela Shiffrin rival, needs surgery

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One of Mikaela Shiffrin‘s top rivals will miss the start of the Alpine skiing season

Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova, second to Shiffrin in last season’s slalom standings, is undergoing right knee surgery that will keep her out at least two months, according to her social media.

Velez Zuzulova’s unspecified injury could have otherwise kept her out six to eight months (the Olympics are in five months) if she had not chosen this particular surgery, according to the post.

Velez Zuzulova is sure to miss the first slalom of the World Cup season is Levi, Finland, on Nov. 11. She could also miss the second slalom in Killington, Vt., on Nov. 26.

Velez Zuzulova, 33, revealed last week that she hurt her knee in preseason training in Argentina.

She won three World Cup slaloms between the last two seasons. Only Shiffrin, with 12 victories, has more.

Velez Zuzulova finished second in the World Cup slalom season standings in 2016 (to Swede Frida Hansdotter; Shiffrin missed much of the season with a knee injury) and in 2017 (to Shiffrin, a massive 275 points behind).

Velez Zuzulova, an Olympian in 2002, 2006 and 2010, missed the 2014 Sochi Winter Games after tearing her left ACL in October 2013.

Shiffrin’s biggest slalom rivals to start the season should be world silver medalist Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, plus another Slovakian, Petra Vlhova, and Hansdotter.

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