Ukrainian rider Andriy Grivko of the Astana team has been disqualified from the Tour of Dubai after punching German Marcel Kittel in the face during the third stage.
Kittel, of the Quick Step Floors team, ended up with a bloodied face after sustaining a cut to his eyebrow, failing to contest the final sprint after winning the first two stages of the race, which he still leads.
"I got punched by Andriy Grivko from Astana. That's why I had blood on my face but I didn't crash," Kittel said in a statement by organisers.
"There was some confusion in the race. My team worked well for the sprint but I was not in a perfect position and maybe my head was elsewhere too."
Astana apologised to Kittel and his team.
Kittel said he would not accept an apology.
"What Grivko did is a shame for our beautiful sport."
The incident happened early on the 200km stage from Dubai to Al Aqah.
"When we passed a construction site, the sand began blowing and as soon as we went into the crosswinds we were fighting for position, which is always stressful, and Andriy Grivko punched me," Kittel said on his team's website.
"I get that riding in the crosswinds is always tense, but it gives him no right to act like that. He could have hurt my eye.
"In the finale, my mind wasn't 100 percent on the sprint, but I am happy I have no big injuries and I kept the lead."