Mark Cavendish has 25 Tour de France stage victories to his name. He’s won as many as five stages in one Tour.
He’s having a helluva time reaching 26.
So far, he misjudged the sprint on the Zeeland stage by jumping the gun, then watching Peter Sagan and winner Andre Greipel blow past him. Even Fabian Cancellara managed to edge him for third and whether Cav let off the gas a touch or not, that’s a surprise. Error in judgement, bad timing, okay fine, on to next stage.
Today on stage five, there was no mental mistake just a clear and disturbing lack of legs. Cav launched off his long time, best buddy lead-out man Mark Renshaw but the result was an exact repeat. Greipel showed another gear, extra turbo, more muscular thighs, bigger jaw, faster finish. And again, Peter Sagan took second while the Manxman settled for third and didn’t seem that emotionally destroyed afterwards.
This is the Tour de France. Cavendish owns Le Tour, made his mark and his millions and his reputation at Le Tour. As he noted with some displeasure and annoyance, him losing a sprint is bigger news than the man who beat him.
What happened to the sprinter powered by pistachios?
Cavendish came into this Tour licking his lips. He was fresh off the Tour of California where he made Peter Sagan look tired and confused and worse, slow – even though the Fastvakian did pull off an amazing GC win. In every pure sprint, Cavendish smacked Sagan in the face.
Cav had to be excited for France and the other part of that was illness. Not his, Marcel Kittel’s refuse-to-leave virus. Kittle stole the spotlight from Cav the last two Tours and received official benediction as the new fastest man with the shiniest, best drilled locomotive train.
However, the big German has been off form and suffering since his days in the Middle East – was it Qatar or Oman or a bad kebab in the town market square? No matter, the man has been sick for six months.
In fact, Kittel has probably gobbled almost as many antibiotics as the ancient Chris Horner, who has been sick for 12 months, since his bronchitis in the Tour de France. Gentleman, wake up, rest, heal, skip antibiotics crushing your entire immune system.
Is his new-found even keel-ness a bad sign, is he too grounded and mature for the re-energizing helmet throw, do we really want to hear him happily congratulating his once bitter rival Greipel?
It all feels a bitt strange and out of sorts, like Chris Froome doing hip-hop dance, Alberto Contador joining a male stripper review or Alejandro Valverde suddenly admitting all the Operacion Puerto doping stuff was true and that was his dog and blood bag.
In other words, unsettling. Wither Cav? Is Cav withering? When will he win Tour de France stage number 26?