VITTEL, France (Reuters) - Mark Cavendish praised the Tour de France jury's "courage" after it kicked world champion Peter Sagan out of the race for sending the Briton crashing to the ground in a chaotic sprint finale on Tuesday.
Sagan appeared to elbow Cavendish off balance at the end of the fourth stage, and the Dimension Data rider sustained a broken shoulder blade in the crash that occurred at more than 60 kph.
"It takes a lot of courage, a lot of balls, to eliminate the world champion from the Tour de France," Cavendish, who was hoping to add to his 30 Tour stage wins, told reporters before the start of Wednesday's fifth stage.
Sagan's fate, however, was not Cavendish's main concern on Tuesday.
"My initial worry was my finger. Like it was bleeding. It was like an Eli Roth (horror) movie. There was just a puddle of blood on the floor. I thought I'm going to bleed to death here," he said.
Cavendish dismissed suggestions that he was forcing his way between Sagan and the safety barrier when Sagan flicked his elbow out.
"I know what kind of gaps I can fit through," he explained.
Sagan has apologised to Cavendish, who said he appreciated the gesture.
"It was the elbow which I said I was confused about. I spoke to Peter about that. Whether or not it was intentional, it does not look great," he said.
"It was an honourable thing to see Peter here at the bus, already come to apologise. It shows the man he is, and I appreciate that more than anything."
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson