Riders slam hooligan element after urine attack on Cavendish
Mark Cavendish was left upset after being drenched with urine during the time trial as his fellow British star Chris Froome led the chorus of dismay about the spectre of hooliganism appearing again at the Tour de France.
The festive atmosphere on the route to Mont-Saint-Michel was interrupted by the abuse thrown at the British champion, culminating in a bottle of urine being sprayed over him.
The Manxman's French team-mate Jerome Pineau said he felt "ashamed" about the episode as it appeared that Cavendish was targeted because of his part in Tuesday's controversial sprint finish in Saint-Malo, when some other sprinters blamed him for the clash with Tom Veelers in which the Dutchman suffered a heavy fall.
Cavendish was eventually able to joke about the episode, tweeting last night: "The apple juice looks far from appetising for me tonight... And I'm not taking the p***. Did that once already today."
Yet his former racing colleague Rob Hayles reported that his friend was "really upset" about the latest episode. He is concerned at how Cavendish will react in the 12th stage today – a sprinter's course from Fougeres to Tours.
On hearing about the incident, Froome also talked of his sadness. "That's really really disappointing to hear. It's one of the beauties of our sport that anyone can come and watch, get into it and enjoy the excitement, and really get up close to the top riders in the world," he said.
"Mark's one of the big characters in the sport, some love him, some hate him, but to do something disrespectful like that is really sad. It ruins the whole atmosphere for the spectators."
Froome, meanwhile, took his second major step towards overall victory in the Tour de France as he netted second place in yesterday's crucial time trial and more than doubled his lead over his closest rivals.
Alejandro Valverde, 13th in the time trial stage, remains his closest pursuer but is now more than three minutes down – the kind of gap that is, barring total disaster, usually unbridgeable in a Grand Tour and which permits Froome to play a defensive game now.
After taking a devastating win on Saturday's first mountaintop finish, Froome came within a whisker of taking his first ever full-length time trial win. But although his intermediate times on the 33km race against the clock were almost equal to those of world time trial champion Tony Martin, by the finish Froome was 12 seconds behind.
"It's still a long way to go but I can be very satisfied with the advantage I've got at the moment," Froome said afterwards.
Valverde said: "There's Froome and there's the rest of us; losing two minutes, like I did today, is a lot. Can he be beaten? Hmm... difficult."
Ireland's Dan Martin finished the stage in 62nd, 3:36 behind the winner. He drops down to 13th place in the overall classification. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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