The French math says that sprinter Mark Cavendish is now third on the stage win list at the Tour de France. Currently at 26 wins, he trails the Cannibal Eddy Merckx by six and Gallic legend Bernard Hinault by just two.
Twisted Spoke wonders what the hyper-competitive Badger might do if Cavendish closes in on his win total. Hinault was famous for his “no gifts” quote — is he willing to simply stand back and watch helplessly as the Manxman knocks him down to third place? Is he prepared to give Cav a hug and a handshake and let the former Boy Racer punk dump on his record?
Not likely, we think.
The 2016 Tour de France could be even more dangerous for Cavendish with him ready to surpass Hinault. Sure, as per usual, he’ll worry about crashing out of the Tour on one of those crazy first week stages when everyone wants to be at the front. He’ll also have to survive the terrifying Tour field sprints that can take down 20 riders flying toward the line at 60k.
But mostly, and here is where things get even more dangerous and unpredictable, he has to watch out for whatever Bernard Hinault might do.
Keep in mind that Hinault is in a very advantageous position at the Tour de France. As an employee of race organizer ASO, he has a full access pass to go wherever he wants and avail himself of all ASO resources. As a meeter-and-greeter for Le Tour, he can essentially be wherever he needs to be to stop Cavendish from breaking his record. There is no end to the things Hinault might cook up to stop Cav.
The most obvious scenario is as simple as it is terrifying. Say Cavendish takes out a quick victory in France, for example on stage two from Saint-Lô to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin. That puts him a single stage win from trying Hinault. Will Bernard let that happen? Eh bah non!
Hinault’s quick temper and violent reactions have caused him to throw several hooligans off the Tour de France stage when the winners come up to take a bow. In fact, he seems to delight in forcibly booting people. All Hinault has to do is shove Cavendish off the stage, thereby injuring the Manxman — a broken wrist, a sprained knee, snapped collarbone — and Hinault prevents Cav from showing him up.
You can practically guess Hinault’s explanation for tossing Cavendish off the stage. He was just trying to protect him from a perceived terrorist attack — one that only the Frenchman managed to spot. Or perhaps faking an excess of enthousiam, Hinault pretend-hugs Cav and accidentally knocks him off stage. Even a simply leg trip as Cavendish comes up or down the stage steps could be enough to take Cavendish out of the race and Hinault keeps his second place intact.
If we’re the team directors at Dimension Data, we don’t let Cavendish on stage with Hinault without riot gear and six body guards. Monsieur Hinault is, how you say, kray-zee.
Now we’re not saying that Hinault will do anything possible to prevent Cavendish from passing him on on the stage win list in the Tour de France. But he just might.
Come July in France, Mark Cavendish better watch his back