CAV’S SLOW BLOW
Power just not there as sprint legend struggles
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.”
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.