Power just not there as sprint leg­end strug­gles

Irish Daily Mirror - - IRISH DAILY MIRROR - BY Mike WALTERS @Mikewal­ter­smgm

MARK CAVENDISH ad­mit­ted he was strug­gling to keep up with the power of ri­val sprint trains af­ter a cruel Fri­day the 13th on the Tour de France.

For the fourth time in a week, the Manx Mis­sile (above) suf­fered dis­ap­point­ment in a fin­ish which once suited him like a Sav­ile Row tai­lor.

Cavendish has looked a shadow of the bullish, dare­devil competitor who’s won 30 stages on Le Tour.

And af­ter a ma­jor shoul­der op­er­a­tion 12 months ago, plus a series of early-sea­son crashes to dis­rupt his prepa­ra­tion, he has been out­gunned.

It is too soon to talk about a chang­ing of the guard with Cavendish, An­dre Greipel and Mar­cel Kit­tel mak­ing way for Peter Sa­gan, Fer­nando Gaviria and stage seven win­ner Dy­lan Groe­newe­gen of Hol­land, who won on the Champs El­y­sees last year.

But af­ter nearly six hours, on the long­est stage of the Tour – 143.5 miles from Fougeres to Chartres – it felt like au­tumn was clos­ing in on a sprint leg­end.

Cavendish sat up 100 yards from home af­ter ap­pear­ing to touch wheels with Alexan­der Kristoff and said: “I was fol­low­ing quite good wheels but it was choppy. I was pick­ing wheels and seemed to be in a good po­si­tion.

“But when I went to go, (Gaviria’s) Quick-step and (Sa­gan’s) Bora have just got a dif­fer­ent kind of level of top speed.

“I was quite ex­cited when I kicked – my power was pretty good ac­tu­ally – but it wasn’t enough.

“I had a lit­tle com­ing to­gether with Kristoff, which might have been my fault, and it j u s t stopped me dead.

“Our backs are against the wall all the time here. It’s not go­ing to be easy to win a stage, but we keep try­ing.”

Team Di­men­sion

Data’s Cavendish has been dealt cruel hands on Le Tour be­fore, crash­ing out in 2014 and 2017, but he has not been as frustrated as this on French soil since 2013, when he won only one stage. Mean­while, de­fend­ing cham­pion Chris Froome dis­missed Yel­low Jersey leg­end Bernard Hin­ault’s carp­ing in the back­ground as “water off a duck’s back” – but in­sisted he bore no grudges against the last French­man to win the race 33 years ago.

Hin­ault is stand­ing by his claims that the pelo­ton should have gone on strike in protest at Froome be­ing al­lowed to race af­ter his pro­tracted salbu­ta­mol case.

And ‘the Bad­ger’ says there is no chance of him pay­ing the Team Sky bus a visit to bury the hatchet with Froome, who shrugged: “It would prob­a­bly be much eas­ier for ev­ery­one if that hap­pened but I cer­tainly don’t hold any grudges.

“I’m not fazed by any of the back­ground noise at all – I just get on with rac­ing, it’s water off a duck’s back to me.

“Over the years, I’ve come up against one thing or an­other and it’s just some­thing else to deal with out on the road, which is where it mat­ters.” Froome (left) re­mains 14th over­all, keep­ing his pow­der dry for the Alps next week, while fel­low Brit Geraint Thomas is se­cond, yield­ing just six sec­onds to Bel­gian Tour leader Greg van Aver­maet.

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