Tour de France organizers punished Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd for a mid-stage tussle by stripping the pair of the points they won at the intermediate sprint on the race's third stage Monday.
Cavendish, a 15-time stage winner who is bidding to win the points competition's green jersey, appeared to nudge his Norwegian rival with his head as they jostled for position at high speed before the dash for the line. The Briton eventually came over the sprint, at the 104km mark, in sixth place - and the first from the bunch behind an earlier five-man breakaway - ahead of Hushovd who eventually was 12th.
But after the stage the race's director of competition, Jean-Francois Pescheux, said both had been guilty of a "serious infringement" and were therefore stripped of the points won.
"Both of them have been relegated from this sprint," Pescheux told France 2 television. "First of all Hushovd left his line and then Cavendish forced his way in. That's a serious infringement. We can't allow that.
"If we let this pass, in the sprint tomorrow there could be dozens of guys crashing and then people will be asking us, 'why didn't you act'?"
While the points competition's green jersey is one of Cavendish's objectives this year, it is not for Hushovd - a former two-time winner. Wearing the yellow jersey after his Garmin team's victory in the time trial on Sunday, the Norwegian went on to play a major role in American teammate
Tyler Farrar taking the stage win after 198km of racing from Olonne sur Mer. Later, Hushovd laughed off the incident: "I just wanted to rub off some of my suncream (on Cavendish)."
Spaniard Jose Joaquin Rojas, who finished third on the stage, took over the green jersey and now has 65 points, with Farrar in second on 58 and overnight wearer Philippe Gilbert third on 52. Cavendish, who could only finish fifth, is ninth on 27 points.