Thursday 5 December 2019

Cavendish weaves to victory

With nearly a dozen crashes in yesterday's fraught and fast stage of the Tour de France, it would have taken a brave man to predict who would finally make it to the finish line in one piece, let alone win -- but that honour went to Britain's Mark Cavendish.

In one of his classiest Tour stage wins, and his first in 2011, the Manxman tore round the extreme right of a straggling, battered pack to claim a victory by half a bike length over Philippe Gilbert in an incredibly demanding finish on the exposed, wind-blasted Breton coastline.

"I had no idea that I was going to win, I didn't think it was possible," said Cavendish of his 16th Tour stage success.

The rest of Cavendish's press conference was the usual mixture of verbal fireworks and high emotion.

He first slated a journalist in a case of mistaken identity in a last-kilometre sprint for the line, then dedicated his win to his dog, Amber, who had to be put down yesterday.

He also crowed over his nameless critics who had -- he believed -- written him off yet again. "I'm not going to name names, but it's nice to prove the ignoramuses wrong," he said.

Bradley Wiggins was involved in one pile-up and came out of it unscathed, while Alberto Contador crashed twice and suffered bruising. They were comparatively lucky.

Slovenian Janez Brajkovic suffered severe concussion, Dutch contender Robert Gesink gashed his knee and American Levi Leipheimer fell. At the same time Spaniard Ivan Velasco suffered a suspected broken collarbone after colliding with a crash barrier and Belgian star Tom Boonen badly hurt his right knee, hip and elbow.

Boonen somehow completed the stage second last. Whether he starts today, though, is anybody's guess.

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