Tour de France: Peter Sagan hit with penalty as Caleb Ewan wins stage 11 | Sport

Peter Sagan, the seven-time winner of the points green jersey at the Tour de France, was relegated to last place for dangerous sprinting in a hectic finish to stage 11 in Poitiers.

The Slovakian, disqualified from the 2017 Tour after causing Mark Cavendish to crash, barged into Wout Van Aert, racing for Jumbo-Visma, in the final 100 metres, before finishing second to the stage winner, Caleb Ewan of Lotto Soudal.

Van Aert gave Sagan a single-finger gesture as the pair crossed the line and within minutes the race jury had relegated Sagan, racing for Bora Hansgrohe, to last place on the stage. That swept away his day’s points tally and significantly increased the Irish sprinter Sam Bennett’s advantage.

“When Sagan pushed me, I immediately lost my momentum,” said Van Aert. “It’s dangerous enough. I was sprinting on a line on the right side. That is my right because I was there. I was at maximum effort and I was really scared. There wasn’t a gap, and if you use your elbows to open it up, I think it’s completely against the rules. For me, it’s not reasonable and not done.”

Sagan took a different view. “I had the speed and, in the sprint, I tried to go on the right side,” the Slovakian said. “I passed one rider easily, but then it got really narrow. I had to move to avoid the barriers and as a result, I got relegated. This cost me a lot of points but I still have not abandoned the fight for the green jersey.”

Ewan, celebrating his second stage win in this year’s race, said: “We’re all at our limit going for a stage win in the Tour. That’s the way sprinting is sometimes. There are gaps left for you and there are gaps that close and that’s the way it was for Peter today.”

Van Aert’s teammate, the overall race leader Primoz Roglic, fully supported the race jury’s ruling. “I saw it, I think it’s the right decision,” Roglic said. “The sprinters are different to how we are. They’re crazy guys fighting to do the sprint, but I still think it needs to be fair.”

In 2017, as the Tour came into Vittel, Sagan used his elbow to block Cavendish’s path, pushing the British rider into the barriers and causing him to crash. Cavendish had long been one of the triple world champion’s major rivals and Van Aert has already won two sprint finishes in this year’s race.

The four sprinters race for the line in Poitiers. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

After a season restart marked by a series of bad crashes and concerns over rider safety, Sagan’s move was widely condemned. The former International Cycling Union president Brian Cookson, after watching the finish in Poitiers, described it as “an outrageously dangerous move” by Sagan.

After watching a replay of the incident, Ewan said: “You’re not always thinking about safety, you’re thinking about getting to the line first. It looks quite bad on TV but I’m sure Peter meant no harm.”

Bennett, of Deceuninck Quick Step, would now appear to have an almost unassailable lead in the points classification and will wear the green jersey on Thursday in the 12th stage, from Chauvigny to Sarran. He has a 68-point lead on Sagan, with three likely sprint finishes remaining in this year’s race.

“I don’t know what happened, it was just so hectic,” Bennett said after the finish. “But a big part of sprinting is rubbing shoulders. When did sprinting get soft?”

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