Sunday 21 January 2018

Cavendish fury as crash shatters yellow dream

Confusion reigns after a crash in yesterday’s opening stage
Confusion reigns after a crash in yesterday’s opening stage

Ian Parker

Mark Cavendish blamed the Tour de France organisers' decision to twice change the location of the finish line for the crash that ended his dreams of wearing the yellow jersey amid chaotic scenes in Bastia.

When the Orica GreenEdge team bus became lodged under the banner at the finish line with the peloton less than 20km away, the teams were initially told the finish line would be moved 3km forward. But once the bus was moved, with the riders already in the town's suburbs, the original finish was restored and just moments after the announcement was relayed to riders, a huge crash took out two of the favourites – Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel – while Cavendish's hopes were ended as he was caught in the queue.

"What caused the problems was the change to the finish," Cavendish said. "We were hearing in the radios with 5km to go the finish was in 2km. Then a kilometre later, it's at the finish. It was carnage."

Team Argos-Shimano's Marcel Kittel emerged from the chaos to win a sprint finish from Alexander Kristoff of Katusha, while Britain's David Millar was fourth behind Danny Van Poppel.

While disappointed, Cavendish said it could have been worse, amid unconfirmed reports that his team-mate Tony Martin had suffered a broken collarbone which would end his Tour.

"I'm not the only one," Cavendish said. "I'm lucky I didn't come down. Some of my team-mates are a lot worse."

Kittel said he had been unaware of the incident with the bus, knowing only that his race director was shouting into the team radio at a frantic rate in the final stages.

"I didn't know there was a bus on the finish line," he said. "With six or seven kilometres to go the race director was shouting in the radio but it was so loud with all the people and the motorbikes and helicopters I couldn't really understand what he said.

But while everything worked out for Kittel, several others were left fuming by the confusion at the finish. Lotto Belisol rider Greg Henderson said on Twitter: "So at 6k to go we get told 3k sign is the finish. We use 3 men. 3.5k to go we get told its original final. Ufff. #confusingandfrustrating"

Although Chris Froome – involved in what Team Sky described as a "small crash" in the very first kilometre of the stage during the neutralised section – finished unscathed, Team Sky themselves did not. Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas were both involved in falls, with the latter being taken to hospital for X-rays.

Because of the confusion, all riders were awarded the same time for the stage, though Irishman Nicolas Roche was 14th and his cousin Dan Martin 93rd.

Froome said: "It's been quite a warning. I don't think any of us thought it would be plain sailing today but there were some pretty brutal crashes at the end there and it was just a reminder that this Tour is about much more than having the form and being here, it's about staying out of trouble too.

"I felt guys were crashing all around me but I managed to pick my way through. I didn't see much, just the sound of breaking bikes and shoes going on to the road. I just saw bikes flying around and people crashing all around.

"It is better to try to keep a cool head in those conditions and try to find a logical way through it. I was just concerned they wouldn't give everyone the bunch time so I chased to get back up. The main thing is that most of us have come through all right."

Roche's team-mate Alberto Contador, seen as Froome's main rival in this year's Tour, also fell and crossed the line a little while after the sprint finish with a torn jersey.

Team Saxo-Tinkoff sport director Fabrizio Guidi said: "It was an insanely chaotic stage and it's really a shame for everyone that the stage was opened in this chaos.

"Alberto went to the ground and we still don't know about his precise condition. The boys have done such a good job all the way to avoid this situation and I think the desperation in the field because of the situation caused the crash."

Irish Independent

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