VITTEL, France — Mark Cavendish has been forced out of the Tour de France after suffering a fractured shoulder blade in a serious crash caused by world champion Peter Sagan, who was disqualified from cycling’s showcase event.
Hours after Tuesday’s crash in a chaotic sprint finish to Stage 4, Cavendish’s Team Dimension Data said on its Twitter feed that “Unfortunately, @MarkCavendish has been forced to withdraw from #TDF2017.”
The British rider sustained hand and shoulder injuries in the crash and was taken to a hospital for checks.
“I’m obviously massively disappointed to get this news about the fracture,” Cavendish said. “The team was incredible today.
“They executed to perfection what we wanted to do this morning. I feel I was in a good position to win and to lose that and even having to leave the Tour, a race I have built my whole career around, is really sad.”
The crash occurred about 55 yards from the end of the stage, when Sagan elbowed Cavendish, who was squeezed against the barriers to his right, out of the way.
Cavendish slammed into the barriers and two other riders plowed over the British sprint specialist, a winner of 30 Tour stages.
“Mark suffered a fracture to the right scapula,” Team Dimension Data doctor Adrian Rotunno said. “Fortunately no surgery is required at this stage, and most importantly there is no nerve damage.
“He’s been withdrawn from the race for obvious medical reasons, and we’ll continue monitoring him over the coming days.”
Race jury president Philippe Marien of the UCI said race rules allowed organizers to disqualify riders in “serious cases.”
“We have decided to disqualify Peter Sagan from the 2017 Tour de France after the tumultuous sprint here in Vittel, where he endangered several riders, including Mark Cavendish and others who were involved in the crash,” Marien said.
Apart from doping offenses, disqualifications are rare in the Tour.
In 2010, Australian Mark Renshaw was thrown out for a headbutt that cleared a path in a sprint for his teammate Cavendish to win the stage in Bourg-Les-Valence.
“I get on with Peter well, but I don’t get ... if he came across is one thing, but the elbow. I’m not a fan of him putting his elbow in me like that,” Cavendish said.
“A crash is a crash, I’d just like to know about the elbow, really,” Cavendish added. “I’d just like to speak to him about it.”
After the crash, Sagan went over to see how Cavendish was and patted him on the back, while the British rider showed him his wounds.
The Slovak said later he had apologized to Cavendish.
“It’s not nice to crash like that,” said Sagan, who had finished the stage in second place behind Demare.
“It’s the sprint. I just didn’t know that Mark is behind me, he’s coming from the right side,” Sagan added. “Mark was coming pretty fast from the back and after I just didn’t have time to react, to go left, and he just came (into) me and after into the fence.”
A medical team quickly ran out to treat Cavendish, jogging into the oncoming stream of riders to reach him.
When Cavendish was finally helped to his feet, his jersey was badly torn and blood was streaking down his side. Cavendish rode in with a teammate after treatment, gingerly holding his right arm close to his body, with his right hand in a bandage.
It’s already been a difficult year for Cavendish, who came down with mononucleosis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus in April.
“If there was a mistake, then you have to congratulate the jury for having the courage to punish the world champion, the big star of cycling today,” said France’s Arnaud Demare, who won Tuesday’s stage.
There was another crash earlier that delayed Tour leader Geraint Thomas, but the Welshman retained the yellow jersey since it happened in the neutral zone near the stage finish.
Thomas leads Sky teammate and three-time champion Chris Froome by 12 seconds, with third-place Michael Matthews of Australia also 12 seconds back.
Thomas scraped his knee but said it was OK.
“I hit the deck but I’m fine,” Thomas said.
Demare clocked nearly five hours over the largely flat 129-mile route, which started and finished in two spa towns, Mondorf-les-Bains in Luxembourg and Vittel in France.
Demare’s win ended a long wait for the home fans, with the previous French victory in a bunch sprint at the Tour being won by Jimmy Casper in Stage 1 in Strasbourg in 2006.
“We’ve been working with Arnaud for a long time on sprints,” said Marc Madiot, manager of Demare’s FDJ team. “Winning in the Tour is the best.”
After Sagan’s disqualification, Alexander Kristoff moved up to second place in the stage, with Andre Greipel in third.
Stage 5 today concludes with the first serious climb of the Tour. The 100-mile leg begins in Vittel and winds its way to La Planche Des Belles Filles with a short but steep finishing ascent that features a 20 percent gradient in the final meters.
All of the overall favorites should swing into action.