The hotly contested battle of slow-moving sprinters took a new turn in stage four of the Tour Down Under.
After his shocking 130th place a few days ago and losses to arch rival Tyler Farrar, Cavendish blasted past the Garmin-Cervelo rider, hitting the gas and nabbing 98th place. A well-deserved victory over the off-form Farrar who straggled in at 105th place.
It was a brilliant display of power and positioning from the Manxman who has dominated the Tour de France sprints the last two years but not the Tour further down in kangaroo land.
However, the jubilation was short lived when Cavendish’s HTC-Highroad teammates informed him that the sheriff Franceso Chicchi, the Quick Step sprinter, had clearly beaten him in at 63rd place. A closer look at the photo-finish was not required.
In other stage four news, Omega Pharma-Lotto, HTC-Highroad and Team Sky committed a bonehead tactical error and allowed not one, but two Garmin-Cervelo riders to jump into a breakaway that never came back.
It was young Australian national time trial champion Cameron Meyer who took the stage win and the overall by a margin of 10 seconds with two stages remaining.
“It’s always hard to stay away, especially this race, [which is] renowned for the sprints,” said Meyer at the finish. “We worked really well together; it’s a credit to the break, it’s a credit to my team-mate Matt Wilson.”
While tomorrow’s 131km stage from McLaren Vale to Willunga — with two ascents of Old Willunga Hill — will be quite a challenge, Garmin-Cervelo is in the driver seat and poised to take the first win of the season.
“It’s going to be good – good fun,” said Wilson of Willunga. “We have a really strong team for tomorrow’s stage; typically it still comes together with about 40-50 guys, we’ll see what happens.”
Exciting no doubt, but the real war is back in the trenches and it’s mano-a-mano, leg to leg combat. Can Cavendish crack the top 100 again and out-sprint Tyler Farrar? Will the battling buddhist Farrar counter-attack, sending a fiery message that he’s got the speed to dominate and maybe even reach 50th place?
Twisted Spoke says stop watching the front of the race. Cavendish and Farrar are at each other’s throats. It’s a slow death.