It’s lucky 13 for Cavendish

Con­ta­dor closes the gap to Froome as Belkin team fades

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

BRI­TAIN’S Mark Cavendish won an epic 13th stage of the Tour de France yes­ter­day as for­mer two-time win­ner Al­berto Con­ta­dor closed the gap to yel­low jersey holder Chris Froome.

Omega- Pharma sprinter Cavendish, tak­ing his sec­ond win of the 100th edi­tion of the race and 25th of his ca­reer, dom­i­nated a two-up sprint with Slo­vakian Peter Sa­gan, who fin­ished sev­eral bike lengths be­hind.

The Bri­tish cham­pion had been near the front of the main pelo­ton when Con­ta­dor’s Saxo team turned the screw on Team Sky and caused a split in the pack 31 kilo­me­tres from the fin­ish.

As the en­tire pelo­ton strug­gled with the strong cross­winds on the flat plains of cen­tral France, a 14-strong group of front-run­ners be­gan to build a lead on the main bunch that grew to 1min 08sec by the fin­ish.

With few sprint­ers of Cavendish’s class among them, the Isle of Man rider won with rel­a­tive ease.

“In the end it was just Sa­gan and my­self, I was re­ally happy to beat him,” said Cavendish, who was beaten at the line on Thurs­day when Ger­man ri­val Mar­cel Kit­tel claimed his third stage win of the race.

“They gave ev­ery­thing for me and I let them down. To­day, I just sat there while eight guys just rode un­til their legs fell off.

“I didn’t re­ally do any­thing to­day... I just crossed the fin­ish line first. It’s an­other win on the Tour De France, it’s so spe­cial for me.”

While Cavendish buried him­self in a bid to make the suc­cess­ful break, Froome was left in no-man’s land. At first, Sky fought to close the widen­ing gap, but were fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle.

One by one Sky dropped off the pace, leav­ing Froome iso­lated and re­quir­ing the help of other teams to aid in the chase.

Con­ta­dor’s team­mate, Ni­co­las Roche, said their move was un­planned.

“I asked Michael (Rogers), he asked Al­berto and then he asked (Daniele) Ben­nati,” said Roche.

“It was a case of us nod­ding our heads at each other be­fore say­ing, ‘Go Benna’ (Ben­nati). When Ben­nati went, there was no hold­ing us back.”

At the fin­ish, where Froome crossed over 1:09 in ar­rears, Con­ta­dor moved up to third over­all. Hav­ing been 3: 54 down overnight, the Spa­niard is only 2:45 be­hind with Dutch­man Bauke Mollema in sec­ond at 2:28.

“It just shows that, on the Tour, things can hap­pen ev­ery day,” said Con­ta­dor, who won the race in 2007 and 2009, but was stripped of his 2010 ti­tle fol­low­ing a pos­i­tive test for clen­buterol.

Froome, who saw his Sky team col­lapse last Sun­day, a day af­ter he took the stage eight win and yel­low jersey at Ax-Trois-Do­maines, ad­mit­ted he would have to pay spe­cial at­ten­tion for the rest of the race.

“I’ve still got a com­fort­able lead, but to­day was just an­other re­minder that this race is wide open,” said the Bri­ton. “Saxo saw their op­por­tu­nity, so hats off to them and they’ve been rewarded with a minute in time.”

Ear­lier, Mollema’s Belkin team, and other teams with lit­tle at stake in the yel­low jersey bat­tle, were end­ing the podium hopes of Spa­niard Ale­jan­dro Valverde.

The Mo­vis­tar leader was in sec­ond place over­all at 3:25, but af­ter a col­li­sion with a fel­low rider he suf­fered a bro­ken wheel, was de­layed and, when the pace in­creased, was dropped.

Such a move – at­tack­ing yel­low jersey con­tenders who suf­fer set­backs – is con­trary to race eti­quette, but Valverde, who has never fin­ished on the race podium, re­mained stoic.

”Maybe they (Belkin) ac­cel­er­ated a bit, but they were at the front al­ready. But what I don’t un­der­stand is the at­ti­tude of Europ­car,” said Valverde, who trailed home 9: 54 in ar­rears and dropped to 16th at 12:10. – Sapa-AFP

AP Photo

TEAM­WORK PAYS OFF: Syl­vain Cha­vanel, arms raised, cel­e­brates as stage win­ner and team­mate Mark Cavendish wins yes­ter­day’s 13th stage of the Tour de France.

PIC­TURE: GALLO IM­AGES

ALL MINE: Ala­p­ati Leiua of the Hur­ri­canes wins a high ball from Zac Guild­ford of the Cru­saders dur­ing yes­ter­day’s Su­per Rugby match in Christchurch.

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