Mark Cavendish soared to his second straight win in the Tour de France today to La Grande-Motte, winning the sprint from a small bunch and strengthening his overall hold on the green jersey.
Cav”s victory was the sixth Tour stage win and 43rd victory of his career, and came after 27 riders, driven by the entire Columbia-HTC team, split away away from the peloton with around 30 kilometres to go.
Cav hinted afterwards that it was the team’s intention to use the strong winds today, and they had hoped to do so earlier than they did, in order to take a lot of time from the other favourites and prevent the rumoured multiple attacks that the other teams were planning, to thwart Cav’s amazing gallop.
In the end, Cavendish only had Thor Hushovd to watch out for when the sprint began, and the 24-year-old rider made a gesture of using a mobile phone as he crossed the line – he explained later that it was in honour of his team’s new sponsor HTC.
“This gesture was dedicated to HTC because they introduced a new phone last week and I said if I win I’d do that for them.
“There are eight sprint stages we have targeted here, so hopefully I’ll get a few more before the end of the Tour, and one of them will be a win on the Champs Elysées.
Speaking of the Columbia-HTC squad’s coordinated teamwork, he explained;
“It was brilliant. Saxo Bank rode at the front for a large part of the stage, but we were the only sprint team that wanted to ride today in the front group, and it worked out perfectly.
“The other sprint teams rode like juniors, they eventually had to ride hard, which they were hoping to avoid with the Team Time Trial tomorrow, but they were riding just to stay in the race today, where we were riding for the win.
“It was a hard last kilometre, but I had five guys around me in the last build-up for the sprint.
Mark Renshaw once again was the last lead-out man for Cav, and he kept his cool, leaving his effort very late because of the headwind.
The Columbia-HTC mass attack also allowed Tony Martin to move into the lead of the Best Young Rider’s classification.
Incidentally, Cavendish completed a hat trick of victories for Columbia-HTC today after Switzerland’s Michael Albasini won stage two and moved into the overall lead of the Tour of Austria, and Mara Abbott of the USA scooped first place in stage three of the Giro d’Italia Femminile.
In all the newspapers, sports and normal, there was only one big story from yesterday’s Tour, yea!: That man “Cav”.
AS lead with a tricky one for translation purposes;
“‘Pichichi’ Cavendish – Es el triunfo de un equipo”
So what or who is a Pichichi? Well the nearest I can get is that you would call the top scorer in a football team a “Pichichi” – of course the headline is saying that it was a team triumph.
The crash 900 meters from the line has been put down to Koldo Fernández trying to go straight on when the course went right, he took sprinters Oscar Freire and Thor Hushovd out with him. Freire commented later that the course was badly signalled.
Other articles include an interview with Iñigo Cuesta (Cervélo) who celebrated his 40th birthday on the 2nd of July.
AS refer to him as “Es el ‘abuelo’ del Tour con 40 años”, the grandfather of the Tour with 40 years.
Iñigo says about retirement;
“I won’t be back like Armstrong, when I go, I go”.
According to AS and Marca, the war between Contador and Armstrong is over – well, until after the team time trial.
Marca; “Contador y Armstrong firman la paz” [sign peace] and AS “Astana ira a por todas en la crono”, a sort of ‘all for one and one for all’ for the time trial.
This is the end of the “morbo” and the only equivalent to morbo in English is to say ‘Rangers and Celtic’, or in Spain; ‘Barcelona and Real Madrid’, so let’s wait to see what happens in the mountains!
The bad news is that Bouygues Telecom will be pulling out of sponsorship at the end of 2010 after 6 years of backing the team, and the Tour lost its first rider, Jurgen Van De Walle of Quick-Step. He crashed out and spent the night in hospital.
Sorry about all the football references, but…
¡Mañana amigos! Al.
* * *
The drive in through Marseille’s rush hour traffic was a case of stay in lane, trust the Sat-Nav, and pray that the blue stickers on the car let us through.
The cops are happy, but not the driver of a giant artic rig, who’s jammed his trailer across a pedestrian crossing.
He didn’t look too pleased when we eased the rental car up onto the curb to squeeze by and take our place in the holiest of holies — the ‘Hors Course’ (Off-course) parking.
What a day for Cav though … another blinding win, and it wasn’t really even close.
I was able to watch from the comfort of an air-conditioned hotel room just outside Montpellier.
Such is the lot of a Tour de France follower/journalist, today’s live viewing of the race was of the riders kicking back before the start, of them setting off from the Vieux Port in Marseille, and a brief six-second glimpse of the peloton steaming across a motorway flyover as we stewed in a traffic jam below.
I got the chance to speak to Brian Vandborg, from Liquigas, before the flag dropped.
Brian is back in the big time after a couple of injury and illness-hit years had seen him vanish from the Pro Tour.
Today was all about the wind, he said … that the crosswinds could slice the riders up.
He was right. I was typing for my day job when my girlfriend/co-pilot/media producer Valerie said “Look up! Look up! Columbia is going for it!”, and she was right … the TV commentators in France were paying about as much attention as Alberto Contador was … it was a while before we heard “Attention …!”
Contador will need to wake up though.
What did Lance say on French TV after the stage? “I never subscribed to the theory that this team had only one leader.” Ouch.
… Surely he won’t be able to do too much more damage to Bertie in the TTT tomorrow? We’ll see.
* * *
The Steve Miller Band, ‘Take the Money and Run’ or Bobby Dylan, ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ — which one is the correct theme song for stage three of the 2009 Tour de France?
I walked into a bike shop just in time for the last 35km or so of the stage, Viktor was on the phone; “I see that’s the excitement finished; the tedium has set in!”
Vik was referring to the four man break which had been away all day — containing Samuel Dumoulin; a man Vik dislikes almost as much as Davide Moncoutie – and the fact that the bunch had been a tad lethargic.
The state of torpor dissolved just a minute or two later when Columbia (not forgetting the “HTC”) ambushed the bunch a la Once/Rabobank; they had been riding to get the break back for Cav, the road changed direction, there was a bit of a cross breeze, the echelon was formed and they were gone.
Cancellara had a ticket, so did Hushovd — and for Astana, so did Lance, Popo and Zubeldia.
But Bert was sleeping or maybe dreaming about how nice it will be at dinner when Vino is back — whatever the reason, he missed the split, along with Sastre and Evans.
Initially Lance played the good team mate, but when he saw the gap start to grow, he gave a ‘wagons roll’ kind of gesture to his henchmen and Columbia suddenly didn’t just have the Skil guys helping them.
Did he ‘take the money and run?’ or was it the case, as Charly Wegelius explained to me tonight, that ‘sometimes, it’s easier to go through in the echelon rather than sit on the back and be left; ‘blowin’ in the wind?’
Interestingly, Viktor and our man on the patch, Gord Cameron share the view that Bert should have been expecting Lance to pull a move like that.
I know I’m not the brightest, but I had thought they were team mates?
I grew up on Jos Bruyere dropping off the break to go back for Eddy in the Primavera; Duclos stopping by the roadside to wait for Lemond, and Mario Scirea riding those who dared infiltrate Super Mario’s train, into the barriers — I guess I’m just old fashioned.
Or have I missed something and there’s an Astana ‘A’ and ‘B’ squad?
I sent a text to Brian Smith; ‘I thought Lance was there to help Alberto? Discuss!’ He was saying on Eurosport on Saturday that Lance was there to do that very thing.
And Brian said:
“He is, but you cannot fall asleep in the bunch. If Lance gets himself in the position then who knows what will happen.
“Contador needs to lay the law down on the first mountain stage. His mistake today is letting Lance in. If Contador fails at any stage like he did in Paris-Nice then Lance will take control.”
“I cannot see Contador make many more mistakes. Good for the team that Lance gained time on other contenders.
“He needs as much time as possible and took advantage today. Contador will fly in the mountains.
“All good stuff really. Zubeldia rode in front group. If he didn’t ride then you would be correct to speculate on who is the boss.”
I guess it’s me, then — it seems it’s fair enough to wage war inside the team.
And to close, as Colombo would say; ‘just one more ting, sir’, with battle lines drawn between Lance and Bernard Hinault, could it be anything to do with the fact they are so alike?
The scenario developing reminds me of the 1986 Tour when Hinault gave team mate Lemond a hard time all through the race, then explained it was to make sure that the American ran out a worthy winner!
And let’s not forget, “Respect!” to Cav.
But the last word goes to Brian; ‘All good stuff really!’