Blazin' Saddles

Sylvain Cav in hell

Blazin' Saddles

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On a day
that Sylvain Chavanel moved into the leader's jersey, a rather wooden Mark
Cavendish drew a line under what has been a miserable Vuelta for the Manxman.

You can't
blame Cav for wanting to make an appearance in HTC-Highroad's last ever Grand
Tour; nor can you criticise him for his hunger to become only the fourth rider
in history to win stages in all three Grand Tours in the same year.

But let's
be honest here: Cavendish has really had a Spanish stinker - from day one in
Benidorm, when he was dropped by his team-mates during the TTT, right through
to the moment he decided to throw in the towel 40km from the finish at Sierra
Nevada on Tuesday.

It hasn't
helped that this year's Vuelta route doesn't actually feature a flat stage
until day seven - nor has it exactly been ideal that a red-faced, sunburned
Cavendish has had to ride in temperatures as high as 42 degrees.

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A pack of riders cycle during the fourth stage of the Tour of Spain
And what
about the absence of Cavendish's room-mate Matt Goss, who was forced out of the
race on day two with a stomach complaint?

Imagine
spending your whole day under the baking Spanish sun, pulling yourself over
mountains which by right should not appear until the second week of the race,
losing more than 16 minutes in four days, being reduced to taking on the mantle
of John Degenkolb's lead-out man - and then not being able to come home to
Gossy and a cold beer at the end of the day.

How lonely
the last two nights must have been for Cavendish without his regular bedtime
story read out in the dulcet Tasmanian tones of his trusty Antipodean sidekick.

But truth
be told, Cavendish - who looked so hot on Monday he could have started a forest
fire - was doing himself no favours staying in Spain. What's more, we all knew
that he was never going to complete the race anyway.

Still, it
must be galling to leave a Grand Tour empty handed for the first time since
2007 -- and with the world championships in Copenhagen coming up next month,
it's going to be hard for Cavendish to gauge his form if he's now banned from
racing till the 11th September.

One rider
who will miss Cavendish in the peloton is fellow Brit Bradley Wiggins, who told
the Twittersphere that he was "sad to see Cav going home" because he
was "going to miss our little chats in the peloton".

Those chats
must have been very little indeed, because Cavendish spent the majority of the
race off the back of the bunch and nowhere near Wiggins at all.

The new red
jersey Chavanel also suffered a bit on Tuesday, but the French all-rounder
managed to limit his losses on the final climb to Sierra Nevada and snatch the
race lead from yesterday's hero Pablo Lastras, who himself finished 18 and a
half minutes off the pace. Nice guy, Chavanel -- and thoroughly deserving of
all his plaudits.

The image
of the day, however, came from Spaniard Jose Vincente Toribio of local team
Andalucia Caja Granada. The Spaniard was part of the seven-man breakaway but was
dropped on the final climb of the day. Having just reconnected with the four
remaining leaders, Toribio then hit the wall in spectacular fashion --
pedalling squares and almost coming to a complete standstill. Toribio finished
almost 15 minutes down, but his bravery will be remembered.

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Katusha team rider Moreno of Spain celebrates after winning the fourth stage of the Tour of Spain
As for the
winner, well, hats off to Daniele Moreno. The Spanish rider timed his attack to
perfection after getting the nod from Katusha team leader Joaquin Rodriguez to
do his thing.

At the finish, Moreno even admitted to the world's media that he
and 'Purito' Rodriguez "make a good couple", which was cute.

What a
difference a month makes for Katusha. Having sent an all-Russian outfit to
France, Katusha were one of the laughing stocks of the Tour - and quite rightly
so. But on Tuesday they were excellent: Eduard Vorganov got into the break,
Rodriguez was strong, Moreno got the win.

Heck, even
Vladimir Karpets looked pretty tidy - and that's something which hasn't been
said since 2006.

 

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