The incident seems to have taken place as crosswinds and sandstorms hit the race, which caused splits in the peloton with Kittel missing out on the front group, potentially putting his leader’s jersey in doubt.
It was not until the peloton had come back together that we first got a glimpse of Kittel’s injuries, which Lefevere said had been caused by an altercation with an Astana rider.
Kittel told journalists after the race that he had been “punched” by Astana’s Andrey Grivko, also making it obvious what had happened to him when talking to Dimension Data rider Jay Robert Thomson during the race, making a clear elbow gesture.
Grivko was later disqualified from the race by UCI commissaires.
This isn’t the first time that a rider from the Kazakh team has been involved in a mid-race scrap, with Dmitry Gruzdev (who coincidentally is riding at the Dubai Tour) getting in a mid-stage fight at the 2015 Tour of Turkey.