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Stage 5: Peter and the wolves
By Dave Land, posted 5 July 2017

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Andy doesn't agree with Chris Evans. 3 days in, and the enthusiasm is still there. 

It is extremely hard, when you step back and actually watch the replays, not to feel that disqualifying Cycling’s major player from it’s biggest race is simply too harsh a judgement.

On the one hand, we have Roger Hammond, Directeur Sportif for Team Dimension Data, taking straight to trial-by-twitter to exclaim that the upshot of a crash should be a disaqualification. 

On the other hand, we have Chris Boardman (and pretty much everyone else) saying that they are penalising the crash, which is a consequence of a potential rule break, rather than for breaking the rule itself. The glaring case in point is watching stage winner Arnaud Démare veer erratically across Nacer Bouhanni, failing quite clearly to hold his line. Démare's reward?  A first French sprint stage win for 18 years.

The case has, as might be expected, already been thoroughly explored on social media (Caley Fretz at velonews has our favourite explanation).

Unlikely as it may seem, this analysis from Lance the bad guy is pretty interesting. 

It seems to depend upon interpreting the action of Sagan’s elbow – as if it’s a separate part, nothing to do with him. Cavendish has said he wanted to know about the elbow. The Commissaire’s have said they know all about the elbow, and have taken it as a sign of aggression. How you can tell beyond doubt intent from the move of an elbow, whilst riding a bike at 70kph, and trying to stay upright, is beyond us.

Having originally put him to the bottom of the stage, and removed 80 points, and docked him 30 seconds, further disqualification seems simply vindictive. Who has gained from Sagan’s removal? His rivals for the green jersey obviously. And who were they? The list is prodigiously non-existent. There is simply no-one that can realistically match Sagan. Both in terms of his ability let alone his wit and personality. Whoever does now scrape in the jersey win, we imagine they will painfully aware they won because Sagan wasn’t there.  

One can only imagine that the commissaries are pretty pleased with themselves, having got some time in the spotlight. But the reality is the stage is now blackened, and their involvement seems like a biased knee-jerk reaction. Almost all news is about Sagan, not Démare , and any news that includes Démare is that he should also be penalised (which won’t happen). And if Andre Greipel, who’s team manager insisted the commissaires re-watched the footage, were to win a stage then that might be only because Sagan isn’t there.

We know stuff happens. It’s not great that Cavendish is out, but that’s true for Valverde as well. It seems unlikely Nibali would have won in 2014 if Froome and Contador had stayed in. The race organisers don’t especially care, the race goes on, whoever wins, wins, and you have to be in it to do that. What they should be more worried about is what happens to viewing figures when major players leave. 2014 started amazingly; of course I would say that. But it failed to deliver towards the end. The British media certainly started switching off, as did the watching public. Might we see a similar effect without Sagan, and not due to a crash, but poor decision making.

The World’s biggest annual sporting event is now a much thinner proposition as a consequence of the active dismissal of the World’s best cyclist.  We’ll keep watching, but Mr Sagan, please take some time out, turn the media and the telly off, and for a while maybe, just ride the bike.

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