He laughs, he cries, he rails and insults and hugs and smiles. He’s a cauldron of emotions barely controlled, a tightly wound bundle of nerves, a volatile mix of sorrow and joy. Mark Cavendish is a 5’7″ Tour des Emotions.
Today in Brittany’s Cap Fréhel he swung back to happy and as usual he did it at high speed, fast-twitched, full gas. Nobody got within a bike length of him.
Stage five’s run from Carhaix to Cap Fréhel had sprinter marked on the profile but it wasn’t a guarantee. In fact, with all the crashes caused by wind, narrow roads and nerves, not even Alberto Contador was sure he would make the finish.
Still, after a bold Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) breakaway failed with 2k to go, all trains went to the front. HTC-Highroad, Lampre and Movistar lined up across the road. Garmin-Cervelo, which did the driving for most of the stage to protect the maillot jaune of Thor Hushovd, went into recovery mode. (Bad legs for Tyler Farrar also being part of the demotivation.)
This time it was left to Cavendish to do things the hard way, on his own, weaving thru freeway traffic. The timing and coordination of his lead-out was off, with Tony Martin going so hard that he gapped teammate Matthew Goss and left the Manx Missile far behind.
Taking advantage of the foul-up and confusion, Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen shot off the front, a move that had brilliance and possibility. For a moment, it appeared the Norwegian had fooled everyone right at the flamme rouge.
No shingles but also, no victory for Boasson Hagen. He was swept up as Philippe Gilbert made his move and if the finish had a slight uphill grade he might have won.
Cavendish himself was busy moving up the right side and ready to summon all the anger he’d collected earlier in the day. In the intermediate sprint, the Member of the British Empire had been blocked by both Movistar’s Jose Joaquin Rojas and Tom Boonen. He’d banged the bars in frustration
Now with 150 meters to go, he made everyone pay for the disrespect. Turbo on, blasting clear, both arms up, wide grin, hugs for teammates, life is good again.
Now he can relax and let everyone in the media know he proved the doubters wrong. Uhh, what doubters, who doubts a rider with 16 Tour de France wins? But if you need to generate anger and revenge to make yourself ride faster, so be it. Works for Cavendish, doesn’t work for battling buddhist Tyler Farrar.
“It was proper hard. My legs were going, going, going…I’m really happy,” said Cavendish. “It’s just good that we came out against adversity.” Yup, adversity all around, fellah, it’s The Tour.
Sadly, a few riders didn’t make the finish line at all today. Radio Shack’s Jani Brajkovik lay curled up on the side of the road and barely moved for several minutes. He’s out of the tour and at the hospital. Tom Boonen (Quick Step) may also be a scratch tomorrow after hitting the tarmac. He limped to the finish but all visual evidence points to a broken collarbone.
According to reports, Americans Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer also had their troubles staying upright. It was, as Cadel Evans said afterwards, a day of “crash, crash, crash.”
So far Alberto Contador has had a miserable Tour and now he needs a new Saxo kit after scraping himself up pretty good. No injuries by all appearances. He must be feeling like Lance Armstrong did last year, dogged by crashes and bad luck. He is praying he makes it to the mountains in one piece.
Garmin keeps the yellow jersey with Hushovd and HTC-Highroad gets their first stage win, “opening the account” as Phil and Paul like to say. There is joy for Mark Cavendish and when he’s happy, team sponsors are happy.
A few more stage wins at this year’s Tour and team owner Bob Stapleton might even snag a new sponsor.