Mark Cavendish has appealed for an end to the 'vile and threatening' messages that have been sent to him and his family on social media after an incident on stage four of the Tour de France on Wednesday that ultimately saw Peter Sagan disqualified.
Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) were involved in an incident at the end of fourth stage of the 2017 Tour into Vittel. Cavendish crashed heavily into a barrier on the right-hand side of the road during the final few hundred metres of the sprint.
After the stage, Slovakian world champion Sagan was disqualified from the Tour as the race jury deemed his riding had endangered others. Cavendish fractured his shoulder blade as a result of the incident, and the Manxman was forced to withdraw.
Although both Cavendish and Sagan appeared calm in the aftermath, both issuing measured statements to the press. A less calm debate has raged among spectators on social media and online. Some believe Sagan played no part in causing the crash, others believe he did.
"Everybody is entitled to their opinions," said Cavendish in a video posted on Twitter. "I know full well that I am paying now as a 32-year-old for the petulant attitude I had when I was a kid. Unfortunately this will never leave me and I will always deal with the brunt of people's personal opinions.
"Please note that this is a sport, and I now have a family... and vile and threatening comments on social media to myself and my family isn't deserved. I would ask you all to respect that and please don't send threatening or abusive language to myself or my family.
Watch: Tour de France 2017 stage four highlights
"Thank you. Thank you to everyone for the well wishes, and I hope that you continue to enjoy the rest of the Tour de France."
Cavendish also reiterated in the video that he and Sagan remain friends, and that Sagan had apologised to Cavendish immediately after the stage and also later that evening in a phone conversation between the two riders.
"Unfortunately these things happen in cycling, especially in the chaotic finales of the sprint," said Cavendish. "But there are no hard feelings between Peter and I. We're friends."
Cavendish's Dimension Data sports director Roger Hammond issued an apology on Twitter on Wednesday evening after he received a strong response to a post regarding the incident between Cavendish and Sagan.
Hammond's original message, posted shortly after the end of stage four, said "Causes a big crash at 1.5 to go, elbows fellow competitor in the head 300 meters... can only result in one decision. #Goodbye".
Hammond later said: "I am sorry my tweet has offended, I should never have shared my opinion online. I have taken the constructive comments on board. I've always said my opinion is biased, I've never never denied that. That is why there is an independent body responsible for the rules.
"They are responsible for assessing all incidents and applying the rules. Quite rightly so, I had and have no influence in that process."
Hammond finished by saying: "I am very sad we will not see these two champions going head to head for the rest of the race. It is a great loss for everyone."
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