Saturday 24 February 2018

Tour de France: Fedrigo profits as Sky decide to not fight for Cavendish

Alasdair Fotheringham in Pau

Any hopes that Mark Cavendish might obtain his 22nd Tour stage win yesterday were dashed around 100km from the line when Sky allowed a six-man break to go clear and build up enough of an advantage to dispute the victory.

Two hours later on a fast-moving stage that skirted the foothills of the Pyrenees, FDJ-Big Mat veteran Pierrick Fedrigo claimed the win -- the fourth for France this year, and third of his career -- when he outsprinted American Christian Vande Velde.

With sprints well known to be his weakest suit, Vande Velde had barely raised himself out of the saddle to try the impossible before the Frenchman sensed the American's acceleration and upped his own pace.

"The best form of defence is attack," Fedrigo said, before adding that he had been confident of beating Vande Velde because "he has less punch in the sprint".


If British fans were disappointed that Sky did not work for Cavendish on one of the three possible sprint stages left in the Tour, it later emerged that what had looked like a short, easy stage was in fact anything but.

Six riders gave up -- among them former Tour leader Sylvain Chavanel -- with speeds averaging 43kph.

What appeared to be flattish terrain on the map was far more difficult, with the heat and a manically fast first couple of hours as the break formed all contributing to the decision not to pull back the break.

"Have you ever ridden a bike?" was Tour leader Bradley Wiggins' sneering response to a journalist who asked if there had been any plans to work for Cavendish in this stage. "It wasn't flat, there were 2,000 metres of climbing, and we didn't decide not to work for Mark until we were out on the road.

"GreenEdge didn't want to ride, Lotto the same, although they put two guys up there with our two, but that made four riding (on the front of the main pack) against the six ahead and we were never gong to get them back. So we shut it down, Lotto shut it down and that was the end of that."

Both Sky and Cavendish have bigger fish to fry than 'just' another stage win: Wiggins' yellow jersey, Chris Froome's second place overall, and Cavendish's need to reach the Olympic road-race in 12 days' time as fresh as possible.

"We're in a good position," Wiggins said, "but the race isn't over." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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