Cavendish stamps his authority over the top sprinters in the world taking his third stage in this year’s Tour and the thirteenth in his very young career. His lead out man Mark Renshaw was ejected from the Tour by race officials for head-butting Garmin Transitions rider Julian Dean in the closing kilometer.
Personally I didn’t have a problem with the head-butting although he probably could have just put a shoulder into Dean and accomplished the same thing. That being said, I did have a problem with him coming off his line and pushing Tyler Farrar into the barrier. At 70 KMH+ that was an extremely dangerous move and could have resulted in a horrific crash. While I don’t think either of these offenses warranted his ejection from the race, I think a more prudent decision would have been to relegate Renshaw to last and impose a fine.
Anyone who has raced at any level understands that there is a certain amount of pushing and shoving that goes on in the sprint and for that matter, throughout the stage. Riders constantly tap each other on the hip to let another rider know he’s there and to hold his line. As Cosmo Catalano explains in the video below, UCI Rule 2.3.036 is fairly vague and you will see all types of contact and line deviation.
My feeling is that the UCI and/or the ASO has an axe to grind with HTC Columbia and in particular Mark Cavendish. I think we have a clear case of political correctness run amuck because this team has been so dominant since it’s inception. They went out of their way to relegate Cavendish last year which ultimately was the difference in the points competition between Cav and Hushovd. The video clearly shows that Cavendish held his line in that stage and that it was the barriers that pinched in on the riders.
Just before the Tour, Cavendish was involved in a crash with Heinrich Haussler and was blamed, fined, and relegated for that crash when he clearly had the lead and both riders were drifting from their lines. In my opinion this is just another example of Cavendish and HTC Colombia being singled out.
Now with only two real sprint stages remaining and a mere 29 points separating the top four riders, HTC will be without the key cog in their lead out train. In my opinion this is little more than race organizers stacking the deck against Cavendish again this year.
|1||Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini||161||pts|
|2||Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team||157|
|3||Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team Katusha||138|
|4||Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC – Columbia||132|
Tomorrow’s stage 12 gets bumpy again with five categorized climbs with the final climb being a short, violent Cat. 2 that should provide a chance for the GC favorites to gain time on each other. There’s also an opporunity for a break to stay away as the heads of state will probably wait until the final climb to do battle and not worry about chasing down the break.
Thanks for reading & we’ll catch you tomorrow…
For more great Tour analysis, visit my good friend Tim Liew @ The Armchair Sportsfan.