Australian cycling great Robbie McEwen is adamant that Caleb Ewan did not deserve relegation for his head-butting incident at the Tour Down under.
Ewan crossed the line first at the end of stage five, but within minutes the race jury relegated him for an irregular sprint and handed the win to second-placed Belgian Jasper Philipsen.
In the chaotic last kilometre, Ewan was seen throwing his head three times at Philipsen as they jostled for position.
"I feel a bit let down after all that - it was great finish and a great win," McEwen said.
"Philipsen doesn't want to receive a win like that.
"I'm sure he'll take it, it's a WorldTour win, but there wasn't enough for a DQ."
McEwen, a TV commentator at the Tour, said it was not clear that Ewan made contact with Philipsen.
"Caleb is that small his head doesn't reach. I just don't think there was much in it," he said.
"There might be intent to do a lot of things but if you don't do it, it doesn't count.
McEwen also noted that sprints are often chaotic, with a physical element.
"There's always a fight for position in sprinting. That was my area of expertise and I think that it's an over-reaction," he said.
Ewan is McEwen's heir apparent in Australian cycling as the next great sprinter.
Asked what he would say to Ewan in the wake of Saturday, he replied: "I'd say you were the best today. Fantastic sprint. Well done. You'll get plenty more."
Cycling fans with long memories would find it amusing that McEwen and fellow great Stuart O'Grady were sitting side-by-side in the post-stage TV commentary.
At the 2005 Tour de France, McEwen was relegated from third place in stage three after a clash with O'Grady.
McEwen denied he had head-butted O'Grady.
Australian Associated Press