Cavendish shows he's deadly on all terrain in stage 11 of Tour de France
July 15, 2009 —
With a short but steep uphill finish waiting at the end of Wednesday’s 192km 11th stage from Vatan to Saint-Fargeau, the sprinters in the Tour de France thought they had a chance to win.
British fireplug Mark Cavendish has ruled the sprinter’s roost so far through this Tour, winning three stages going into Wednesday’s rolling stage across France’s burgundy region. With his dominant team and explosive sprint, it’s all but impossible to beat him in the fast-twitch bunch sprints.
His one weak spot was when the sprints finished up a steep run – or so everyone thought.
Cavendish erased any doubt that he’s the best sprinter to hit cycling in a generation, taking his fourth victory ahead of American Tyler Farrar and proving he could win under any conditions.
“This is almost as important as his breakthrough win at Milan-San Rem o,” said Columbia-HTC boss Bob Stapleton. “People said he couldn’t win up a hill. Now he can. The team was just phenomenal.”
The peloton had their ear-pieces back and the racing was brisk as the pack clicked back into gear following their slow ride protest Tuesday.
Overnight leader Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale) brushed off a minor crash to retain the yellow jersey as all the main GC contenders finished safely with the main pack.
American Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) and defending champion Carlos Sastre (Cervélo) also went down in pileups, but were not seriously injured.
A two-man breakaway was gobbled up in the closing kilometers to set up the sprinters, but nothing was guaranteed. Milram was hoping to set up Gerard Ciolek and green jersey wearer Thor Hushovd – the only other rider to win a sprint in this Tour in a similar uphill run into Barcelona in stage 6 – were favored.
But Columbia nailed the set-up, placing Cavendish in perfect position with 250m to go. Hushovd made a strong effort, but faded to fifth. Farrar came closest as anyone in a head-to-head duel to b eat Cavendish with second by a half bikelength.
“It was a different sprint than like a fast lead-out than we’ve had. The team was able to adapt to that situation. I used the 13-14 instead of the 11, but I was able to get my jump,” Cavendish said. “It was perfect. It was beautiful how the guys adapted to the situation and delivered me in position to make the sprint.”
Cavendish found himself in some hot water when French daily L’Equipe wrote a story with an unnamed rider saying that he used a racial slur in a derogatory comment against French riders. The rider said Cavendish was “rascist, anti-French.”
Cavendish denied making the comments, but admitted he can be “an asshole” sometimes.
“I get hot-headed sometimes, it’s irrelevant of what nationality, when I get haughty with someone … I had to laugh at that, everyone knows I am not like this. It would be nice to have the name of the rider of the who said this so I can go see what the problem at,” he said. “I spoke to some French riders today and see what the reaction is. I take it as a compliment to start shit that something that’s n ot bike riding, because they cannot criticize my bike riding … I love to be here, I love to race in France, sure, some riders will think I am an asshole, but I don’t care.”
Thursday’s stage is another rolling stage across central France. If the pack comes in for the sprint, the smart money is on Cavendish.
Former Vail Daily editor Andrew Hood now lives in Spain and covers cycling. His reports on the 96th Tour de France will appear daily on RealVail.com. Also follow him on twitter at twitter.com/eurohoody.
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