It was a hard day for Mark Cavendish in the Tour, maybe the worst, a shit day. He was dropped on the only climb 23 kilometers from the finish of a sprint stage in Le Tour –and he used to own the Tour sprints. Count them up — 21 stage wins, 21 bottles of champagne, 42 kisses from sexy French podium girls.
How sad is this sight: over eight minutes after Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) beat Peter Sagan (Liquigas) in a photo finish, the sport’s fastest sprinter, Member of the British Empire and World Road Race champion rolls across the line. He didn’t shout obscenities, he didn’t throw his helmet, just back to the bus.
Cavendish used to beat Greipel like a dog. He even said that Greipel would never win a stage in the Tour and was only good for second rate sprints in Turkey and Poland. Then Greipel finally got his stage win in France last year and now he and Peter Sagan both have three in Le Grand Shindig.
It must kill the Manxman. This is his showcase, the biggest stage in cycling, an event he has dominated and now he’s out the back, in 67th place, looking as slow and forlorn as Tyler Farrar.
How things have changed. His Sky team threw all their resources behind the GC hopes of Bradley Wiggins who leads the Tour in commanding fashion with half the race over. Today, it was Wiggins playing lead-out for Edvald Boasson Hagen, not Cavendish.
Before the Tour is over, Cavendish will walk over to the Omega Pharma-Quickstep bus and reminisce with his former DS Brian Holm about the old glory days, HTC-Highroad, the invincible train. Now, all he’s got is Bernard Eisel and his memories.
They say Cavendish has lost his top-end speed with the changes in his training for a tough Olympic road race course. He’s lighter and leaner and climbing like he never has. Still, not climbing well enough to get over the category 3 Mont Saint-Clair.
He was a spectator today and one without a very good view. He didn’t even see Greipel’s Lotto-Belisol train ramp up the speed and carry the German to the finish. He wasn’t there to try to freelance a win, fighting for Sagan’s wheel or trying to bust in on Greipel’s lead out. He was just another rider crossing the line five groups back, after the roar of the crowd, spectators already heading for the bars.
The mood is fabulous at the Sky bus and around the dinner table. Cavendish is throwing out the jokes and laughing with the boys. They’ve got le maillot jaune, they’re half way to Paris and Cadel Evans looks cooked.
Still, it must feel strange for Mark Cavendish. Greipel has three wins to his one and he has to be thinking that’s effed up.