Blazin' Saddles

Cav rules HTC reunion

Blazin' Saddles

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Greipel and Cavendish cross the line (Reuters)

Old boys' reunions always have an extra layer of frisson when involving competitive thoroughbreds filled to the gills with (legal) testosterone and much machismo.

The 2012 HTC reunion — which just so happened to coincide with the climax of Monday's stage two of the Tour de France — was no different.

With Manx world champion Mark Cavendish, German Gorilla Andre Greipel and Aussie speed trawler Matt Goss the main invitees, there was always going to be fireworks.

Greipel, for one, was bent on getting one over old playground bully Cavendish — and asked a bunch of his new friends from Lotto Belisol to drop him off at the doors of the reunion in their fast locomotive.

Goss himself got a lift to the venue in Tournai on a new Australian ute with green edges, while Cavendish had to make do with finding his own way via public transport.

In fact, a new slim-line figure meant Cav could slip through the gap of the closing Lotto train doors and hitch a lift in the Greg Henderson-conducted vehicle without even buying a valid ticket.

As head boy at HTC, Cavendish was allowed to wear special yellow headgear to the get-together. He also wore the rainbow stripes he picked up in a job promotion since moving on from the HTC School For Fast Sprinters (HTC SFFS).

Greipel looked set to leave the event as the envy of all guests and onlookers — but then Cavendish roared past to reassert his authority after the recent Peter Sagan distraction.

Andre screamed in disgust as he was pipped over the line, while Goss never looked like winning his first Tour stage on the day of the impromptu HTC reunion.

Still, it could have been worse for Greipel and Goss: one HTC old boy wasn't even invited to the party — with Mark Renshaw instead having to razz it up with JJ Haedo and Tyler Farrar at a separate event that started a bit later on in the day.

In the wake of the shindig, an emotional Cav memorably described himself as Team Sky's "bonus rider". He also predicted that Greipel would go on to "win a few stages". To do that, however, Greipel and his Lotto comrades will have to beat a one-man army in rainbow stripes.

Bad peach for Kittel?

German youngster Marcel Kittel had cycling's equivalent of a "404 error" of a day, suffering from a stomach bug and being spewed out the back of the peloton inside the final 15km.

After losing more than five minutes he later revealed all on Twitter, telling his followers to "never trust a fart". When the Tour debutant added "last night has taken its toll" it prompted Saddles to muse over what Kittel could have eaten to make him get the runs.

Perhaps the answer was in an omen that occurred during the start of the stage when, while eating a peach, Saddles managed to squirt juice all over a photo of Kittel peering out from a cycling magazine open on a double page spread about green jersey candidates for the Tour.

A bad peach could well have been the cause of such stormy bowels. Equally, too, could a surfeit of fig biscuits — as Eurosport's stats man on the TV, Carlton Kirby, explained in one totally unrelated anecdote during an earlier live discussion with David Harmon.

"I once had what could only be described as a trouser incident once after eating too many fig biscuits while hiking in the mountains," said Carlton, apropos of nothing.

Unluckily for Kittel, Argos-Shimano wear white shorts. Had the German been an Ag2r-La Mondiale rider, the problem (or at least the aesthetic side to the problem) could well have gone unnoticed. Not sure he would have made many friends, mind.

Anyway, Kittel proved what a good sport he was by also posting photos of what he has been prescribed by the doctor: what looks like a tampon-sized back-door corking device. Ouch!

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