Dubai - Astana's Andrey Grivko was kicked off the Tour of Dubai on Thursday for punching race leader Marcel Kittel, organisers said.
As John Degenkolb fended off swirling winds to claim the third stage Kittel was left with a bloodied face after the attack midway through the 200 kilometre ride.
"I was struck by Andrey Grivko of the Astana team," the German recounted in a statement released by organisers.
"That's why I had blood on the my face but I didn't fall," added Kittel, who crossed in 11th place.
"My team had prepared well for the sprint but I wasn't in an ideal position, with my mind perhaps on other things."
Astana took to Twitter to say sorry.
"The Astana team apologises to Marcel Kittel and to the Quick Step team for the behaviour of its rider Andrey during the third stage in the Tour of Dubai," the Kazakh outfit said.
Despite the drama Kittel, the defending Dubai champion, remained at the top of the general classification after clinching the first two of five stages.
But it was Trek-Segafredo's Degenkolb -- now third in the general classification -- who stole the racing limelight on Thursday, powering to the win in just over four hours, with Reinhard Janse van Rensburg of South Africa and Italy's Sonny Colbrelli second and third.
Degenkolb coped best with the tricky conditions, which saw strong winds kicking up the sand, causing several riders to tumble off their bikes over what was the longest stage of the race.
Friday's fourth and penultimate stage is over 172 km.