Sunday 21 January 2018

Cavendish turns air blue as Greipel crashes the party

Mark Cavendish vented his frustrations
Mark Cavendish vented his frustrations

Ian Chadband

From the depths of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team bus came a fearful explosion.

Just 24 hours after Mark Cavendish had landed a pristine, textbook victory in the fifth stage of the Tour de France, the volcanic Manxman was now to be found wound up, cut up, fed up and swearing like a navvy about a shambolic finale to his attempt for win number 25.

Outside in sweltering temperatures next door to the Stade Yves du Manoir rugby arena, history had just been made as Daryl Impey became the first African ever to don the yellow jersey, but inside that bus, you feared for the person charged with stopping a geyser boiling over.

"There's something wrong with the f*****g bike! I don't want to use this f*****g bike!" boomed Cavendish as he contemplated how an exercise which seemed so smooth the day before in Marseille should now have been so utterly shambolic in Montpellier, over the same finish where he won easily two years ago.

Everything had gone wrong, as Cavendish's torn and scuffed British champion's jersey sadly revealed. It was supposed to be so straightforward across lovely Languedoc on a flat and very scenic 176.5km trek from Aix-en-Provence.

However, Cavendish made a mistake, clipping a tight roundabout when about 32km from home.

Then, after jumping on a new bike and bouncing over another raised roundabout like a BMX boy, he chased manically for 7km to bridge the 45-second gap, only to rejoin and then see his sprint train evaporate in the 90 degrees-plus sauna.

In Marseille, the OPQS train had stuck together in perfect harmony; this time, it was Cavendish, solo, versus the full might of Lotto Belisol behind Andre Greipel.

Greipel, the last man to beat him in a contested Tour sprint exactly a year ago today, was too strong and once Peter Sagan had gone by – finishing runner-up for the third time this Tour – with Marcel Kittel, Cavendish sat up and settled for fourth.

Ireland's Dan Martin finished 42nd to leave him 16th overall.

(© Independent News Service)

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