THE comeback king of the Tour de France does it again – despite the Australian team ganging up on him, writes JOHN TREVORROW:
VETERAN British sprinter Mark Cavendish took out his Tour de France 33rd stage victory winning stage 10 and is now only one win away from Eddy Merckx’s all-time record.
The Manx Missile’s Deceuninck Quickstep team delivered the perfect lead out giving little chance to Belgian Wout van Aert (Jumbo Visma) who showed us just how versatile he is with a fast finishing second and compatriot Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin Fenix) grabbing third and his fourth time on the lower steps of the podium.
“Old school, run of the mill, like you read in a cycling magazine, textbook lead-out,” a smiling Cavendish said after the finish referring to his days as a youngster reading cycling magazines.
“We just got the lads on the front and pulled as fast as they can so no one can come up and try to come past in the finish.
“We knew this finish – I didn’t make it the last time we came here in 2015, I got dropped and nearly cried and Greipel won. I studied it – we knew if we took the last corner wide you can keep the speed.”
Cavendish then spoke about the special qualities of his lead out team.
“Again, I’m just humbled. You got the winner of the Tour of Flanders, the world champion who’s also worn the yellow jersey. You’ve got Michael Mørkøv who’s gone to the Olympics for the Madison to try and win that. You’ve got the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner leaving everything on the road for me. I have to finish it off. I didn’t really do anything – I did 150 metres – it was the team I have to thank for everything.”
With him closing in on Merckx’s record and Cavendish refusing to comment on it, most of the media let it go but one brave French reporter finally asked THE QUESTION. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can in the Tour de France. That’s my answer,” Cav said.
Australian Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) is still in the hunt for the green points leaders jersey, currently second but 59 points behind Cavendish. Italian Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) is third 23 points further back.
But Cavendish has questioned the aggressive tactics of Team BikeExchange. suggesting they should focus on challenging him at the end of the stage rather than trying to put him in difficulty part-way through it.
Team BikeExchange realises that Matthews can’t beat Cavendish in the flat sprints so they put pressure on in the hills hoping to distance the Manxman before the sprints. I think what is upsetting Cavendish is that these tactics can put him under severe pressure to make the time cut in the mountain stages as happened on stages 8 and 9.
“We knew they’d do that. When I go for the green jersey, I go for stages and hopefully the green comes from that. I always try to pick up points but I’m not going to put myself over the limit to do it. But they’ll do it,” Cavendish said.Embed from Getty Images
“Honestly – they’ve got to try something, it’s bike racing – but I feel like they’ve burned their matches doing that. Michael just had one guy trying to help him in the final when he could have had the whole team to match ours.
“They went with that tactic, trying to drop me. But the team stayed around me and got me over it. I just needed to get over that climb and I knew I’d be safe for the sprint.”
Tadej Pogacar has dominated the race for the yellow jersey and looks to be in full control. It will need a disaster happen to lose it. But his UAE Team Emirates manager Joxean Matxin is being cautious.
“The Tour is no way over,” Matxin said. “I think, frankly, Tadej is at a similar level to last year, but we’ve got to be cautious and respectful, because this isn’t over until the final finish line in Paris. There’s no way we can relax right now.”