Cavendish wins, takes green jersey
MARK Cavendish bounced back to business as usual yesterday, putting Tuesday’s stinging defeat behind him as he claimed his third stage victory this year and the green jersey of points leader to boot.
What made it all the sweeter for the Briton was that more than a bike-length back in second came AndrE Greipel, the German who had pipped him the previous day. The HTC-Highroad rider admitted that the stage 10 defeat in Carmaux at the hands of his longstanding rival had hit his morale, as “team-mates that have ridden for me at 110 per cent don’t see me finish off their good work”.
The Manxman added: “It was as simple as that. I told them over dinner [on Tuesday] ’I’m not feeling like that again. Tomorrow I’m going to win’.”
With that kind of determination, Cavendish duly claimed his victory in this 104-mile stage from Blayes-les-Mines despite catching his shoe in a rival’s wheel with 500 metres to go, yet another downpour in this rainsoaked Tour and seeing his key support rider Matt Goss dropping back near the finish through illness.
The shoe incident was probably the most serious problem Cavendish faced, when sprinter Romain Feillu’s front wheel grazed unintentionally against the Briton’s foot, causing it to unstrap.
With a revealing nonchalance - despite all this happening at more than 40mph, Cavendish considered it just part of the job - he explained: “My shoe banged into his front wheel and my foot came out. I had to re-do the buckle up, so I was lucky there were no swerves in the peloton then, and that [his wingman] Mark Renshaw was in position.”
Renshaw then left Cavendish in pole position with around 200 metres to go and the Briton duly powered through to the 18th Tour stage victory of his career and his first points jersey lead since stage 12 of the 2009 Tour.
Yesterday put him eighth in the all-time list of Tour stage wins - he will be sixth if he prevails in Montpellier and Paris, the only two bunch sprint stages remaining - and the way he kissed the green jersey as he stood on the podium here showed just how strongly he wants to wear it in Paris.
“After all the hard work we’ve done, of course I want to keep it now, even if it means sprinting twice a day. It’s the most special of all the jerseys and it’s beautiful to wear it. Sixteen points is a very narrow margin, but we’ll be fighting all the way.”
On a day when the planets truly lined up for Cavendish, he even revealed that he and Greipel - whose rivalry dates back to the day they turned pro - had finally done the vElo equivalent of kiss and make up, with Cavendish praising the German’s victory over him far more profusely than he did on Tuesday.
“I spoke to Andre in the stage and he rode it pretty perfect,” Cavendish said, “technically it was one of the soundest I’ve ever seen.”
With such tiny margins between winning and losing in a bunch sprint, yesterday’s comeback was crucial for Cavendish psychologically. With the green jersey on his shoulders, the only cloud on his horizon right now is that his HTC-Highroad team are still yet to sign up a sponsor for next year.
When asked about it, Cavendish responded simply that “me and the guys love to race, we work really well together and we’re doing the best we can”. To judge by yesterday, the rest will be hard pressed to better it.