Marcel Kittel has called for Astana’s Andriy Grivko to get a six-month ban after the sprinter was left with blood dripping down his face and a cut above eye having being punched by the Ukrainian during stage three of the Dubai Tour.
The Quick-Step Floors rider ended the day with a significant cut above his left eye, after the incident that took place when the 200-kilometre stage was hit by the crosswinds in the desert.
The race jury expelled 33-year-old Grivko from the race after the stage had finished, while his Astana team issued an apology to Kittel and his team via Twitter for “improper behaviour of its rider”.
After the stage, Kittel explained he got into a tussle for position with one of Grivko’s Astana team-mates in the winds that resulted in the two and Grivko pushing back and forth. He said he spoke to the rider to ask why he was "taking that risk" after which he "got a punch in the face" by Grivko.
"I think it’s very clear that he [Grivko] should be disqualified not only for this race, he should get a ban for the next six months maybe," Kittel told press after the stage.
"It’s a terrible disappointment for cycling, it’s a shame for this race, it’s a shame for the sponsors for this team and I really don’t understand how he can show this kind of reaction."
Kittel also tweeted his displeasure after the stage, saying that he "won't accept an apology".
The peloton was hit by crosswinds and then a sandstorm around 100km into the stage as the riders left Dubai city and moved north towards Al Aqah. As the pace increased, echelons formed and Kittel and his Quick-Step team-mates initially got caught on the wrong side of a split in the peloton.
"As soon as we went into the crosswinds there was fighting for positions," Kittel, who remains in the race lead after winning the opening two stages, said. “I think it’s totally normal that you push each other sometimes.
"I was trying to get back into the line in the crosswinds with one of his [Grivko’s] young team-mates. He didn’t like that so he pushed me back and I tried to go around, came in between Grivko and his team-mate, so I also had to push Grivko a little bit but didn’t take my hands off, nothing.
"In the end I was trying to talk to the young guy, why he’s really taking that risk, and at that moment I got a punch in the face."
The 28-year-old explained the punch was just “one centimetre” away from his eye, and also resulted in his glasses being broken. Grivko later tried to apologise to him by passing a message via Dimension Data’s Bernie Eisel – one of the most experienced road captains in the peloton who is also on the UCI’s Rider Commission.
"He sent Bernie Eisel to me that he wanted to apologise, but for what should he apologise – it’s too late," he said. "There is a very thin line that you can cross. I mean if you have an argument in the race you have an argument, you talk about it OK and maybe even you touch the other guy a little bit, no problem. I have no problem with that.
"But as soon as he injures someone he takes the risk to injure me and maybe he injures my eye, it’s over - there’s no feeling sorry, there’s no apology it’s just done."
He continued: "It’s a moment where you have a lot of emotion, it’s like a sprint being in the crosswinds, but it doesn’t give him the right to punch someone else into the face."
Trek-Segafredo’s Kiel Reijnan was in the pack behind Kittel and saw the incident with him and Grivko’s team-mate that led to the punch.
"There was a little alteration in the crosswinds. It gets pretty dangerous and a couple of riders were just taking more risks than necessary," Reijnan said. "Marcel was kind of giving them the what for and one of the guys on Astana came up and socked him, sucker punched him in the face.
"It’s not the way to react and a lot of credit to Marcel for not reacting to that. He stayed calm. Twenty of us saw it. The right thing to do is suspend the rider for that kind of behaviour. It’s not good for the sport."
John Degenkolb secured his first victory of the year and his first since signing for Trek-Segafredo in the bunch sprint that eventually ensued at the end of the longest stage of the five-day race. Kittel was too far back as the race entered the final kilometre to contest the result.
"For sure my concentration was not 100 per cent any more but the day is over now and I try to move on," he said.
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