Mark Cavendish? There’s little left to say about the man, his third win of the 2016 Tour de France and his 29th career stage win to take him one ahead of Bernard Hinault in the record books with just the legend that is Eddy Merckx ahead of him on 34 stage wins.
Dimension Data and Deloitte will be ecstatic.
Cav beat Etixx Stage Four winner, Marcel Kittel into second place – the downhill charge should have suited the German – and in third spot a terrific result for Fortuneo’s Dan McLay not so far away from ‘The Missile.’
Kristoff, Coquard, Theuns, Sagan, Groenewegen all behind the Englishman – a real quality effort.
As in all the sprint stages thus far, a great finale and no complaints about the last few kilometres but the stages themselves are part of what’s delivering the stages to Cav.
He’s hiding in the peloton all day at virtually training pace, comes into the finale fresh and then all that track speed comes into play.
Word is he’s been doing track work in the week and monster runs on the weekend – it’s certainly working for him.
What’s contributing to the ‘sportiv’ nature of the stages is that Direct Energie have Coquard for the sprints; Fortuneo have McLay and Cofidis have discovered that Laporte is pretty quick, so these French teams who would usually provide recruits for the breakaways are all reluctant to commit, saving it for the finale.
And with Coquard and McLay, you can’t blame them but it makes for lacklustre TV for the bulk of the afternoon.
Bora have been the team making the breaks and getting the TV time – but like Robbie McEwen said; ‘a snooze-fest!’…
The BlackBerry rings…
‘Are you watching this?’ barks Vik.
‘Even the commentators are saying that it’s “relaxed” – it’s dire, I’m going out on the bike!’
He has a point – Jan Barta (Bora & Czech Republic) and Yukia Arashiro (Lampre & Japan) slipped away almost from the start and have been away all day – sound familiar?
Yeah, it’s another one of ‘those’ stages.
We’re on the approach to the last climb now, the third cat. Côte de Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val with 40 K to go; so the end game is about to begin – we hope.
Barta takes the points; he also took the first climb of the day, the Col de Estaque – the peloton is gutter to gutter with Direct Energie most prominent but Lotto for le Gorille and the odd Dimension Data for Cav are up front, too.
BMC are up there too; as you’d expect from the maillot jaune’s team; but they won’t be going deep, this race is all about van Garderen – and a little less so after his ill timed puncture t’other day, Porte – for BMC.
The gap for the break was under a minute on the hill but the peloton is playing them, letting them ease back out to a minute.
There’s De Gendt in polka dots – with bike to match.
As the kids might say; ‘OMG!’
Direct Energie are on point but riding a little too hard, too early – Etixx are invisible right now.
Long straights now, savage for our outlaws who are in full view of the posse within which Direct Energie are too excited, it’s too early mes amis – Lotto (Greipel), Ettix (Kittel), Dimension Data (Cavendish), Giant Degenkolb) and Jumbo Lotto (Groenewegen) are all happy to let the French boys graft.
The stage finale is slightly downhill today – it should be a drag race between the sprint trains; Kittel v. Greipel?
We’ll know in about 20 minutes.
Trek start to show for Edward Theuns – he has two fifth place finishes so far.
Quintana is well up there; keeping out of trouble but causing problems according to the sprinters’ teams; ‘too many teams battling for not enough macadam’ they say.
We get a glimpse of Alberto Contador; his teeth bared, the man is hurting.
The road narrows so there’s no room to pass and the pace eases as they flow below the 10 K banner.
Direct Energie again, Sky, Lotto Jumbo, GVA in yellow well up there – as we hit five K and Lotto start to deploy; Roelandts, Gallopin, Greipel in his German champion’s jersey.
Dan McLay has a couple of Fortuneo men up there for him as the pace ratchets up and it strings waaay out.
Renshaw takes Groenewegen’s wheel inside 1500 but loses it – the Dutchman is well placed; red kite!
Etixx are coming late, Kittel is well placed and looks STRONG but Cav is tucked right on him, his tiny frame gets such a shelter from the big German – they spread across the road, Greipel is nowhere, it’s Kittel but Cav comes off the wheel, he’s going to get it:
But RIGHT THERE is Dan McLay, very close to Cav and the big German who’s second; Dan’s in third spot – an excellent ride.
His name will be in the World Tour managers’ notebooks for sure, look at the names behind him; Kristoff, Sagan, Groenewegen, Theuns, Coquard – he’s the real deal.
Into the Pyrenees tomorrow – pas de ‘snooze fest’ a demain!