Like Billy Idol, Mark Cavendish will do anything for his Sweet 16 - even
ditch the train and take the low road to success.
With 300m remaining in Cap Frehel, Cav's 16th career victory on the Tour
looked about as likely as a crash-free race for Tom Boonen. Matt Goss had blown
a gasket, Tony Martin had unknowingly loped clear, and Cav - after been
"bashed by Greipel" - was languishing with that segment of riders
where the Galimzyanovs, the Bozics and - dare Saddles say it - the Bonnets
It wasn't a question of missing the HTC train - it was as if said train
were operating on the railroads of Britain and a few leaves on the track, plus
some more-blustery-than-average winds, had seen the service come to a
You could almost imagine the announcement in Cav's earpiece: "The
4:45 HTC service to Cap Frehel has been cancelled - please make alternative
arrangements to reach your destination."
Which is exactly what Cavendish did. First of all, he hitched a lift
with his British colleague Geraint Thomas of Team Sky. Once back on track, he
then ditched Thomas the Tank Engine, winked past Bertie the Bus, gave out all
the right signals, and steamrolled past the rest (including Henry Rojas the
Green Engine) - all before delivering a lambasting press conference to the
Tour's Fat Controller, Christian Prudhomme.
For, you see, earlier in the stage the only Sweet 16 on the Manxman's
mind was the metaphorical 16-gauge shotgun which Cav clearly wanted to use to
shoot Messrs Rojas and Boonen in the back of their heads after the pair shut
the door on him at the intermediate sprint.
Both riders were subsequently disqualified from the sprint, but only
after Cavendish, in one of the most memorable press conferences in recent
history, said: "All I ask for is consistency; otherwise it becomes a
personal thing against me."
Cavendish then had a pop towards a provocative journalist who he said
he'd "sue for libel" following an outlandish claim involving Rojas
and Cav's fist.
"Hang on! Rojas said Petacchi hit him," Cav retorted. "Do
you want to start s*** or do you want to get your story straight before you
start saying that? You are going to get sued for libel if you come up with
stuff like that."
After cooling down, Cavendish paid a tribute to the
"inspiring" Philippe Gilbert, saying he never thought he was going to
beat him this year.
But after Cavendish told the room just how pleased he was to "silence
the ignorant anuses" with his win, he then went all morose when dedicating
his victory to his old pet dog Amber, which had to be put down on Tuesday.
It certainly was a colourful end to a "crazy dangerous" (Chris
Horner) day in the Tour which saw multiple crashes and three abandonments.
One rider who didn't withdraw was Dane Nicki Sorensen, despite colliding
with a motorbike and having his bicycle dragged on by the vehicle for a further
200m. Sorensen clearly took those motoring tips from former team-mate Fabian
Cancellara too literally.
All in all, there were so many crashes on Wednesday it was as if
Euskadel had decided to host a summit meeting anchored by Denis Menchov in
Bernard Hinault's Breton birth town.
At first it seemed that a load of nails had been thrown on to the road,
such was the frequency of punctures. But these nails soon turned to oil as a
whole host of big names, to coin a phrase from the Rabobank press office,
became "involuntarily acquainted with the asphalt".
Contador, Brajkovic, Gesink, Wiggins, Charteau, Popovych, Leipheimer,
Horner, Boonen... the list goes on. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the
absence of a Schleck.
Stage 6 prediction:
It's high time a breakaway stuck in this year's race so Saddles is going
to draw a completely random name out of the bag - oh, and it's Julien El Fares
of Cofidis. This 195/1 chance aside, a short and sharp climb towards the finish
may dash Cav's chances of doubling up - but both Gilbert and Vinokourov might
have a pop, providing they keep Hushovd at bay. That said, Sky are due a win
too. Boasson Hagen, anyone?
- Mark Cavendish