Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Manx Missile Mark Cavendish masters stage 5 sprint to take the stage

The Manx Missile Mark Cavendish showed his maturity today as he harnessed his anger to power himself to the line ahead of his rivals and upstaging the likes of Hushovd and Gilbert at the finish in Cap Fréhel. Earlier fellow sprinters Tom Boonen and Jose Joaquin Rojas blocked him in the intermediate sprint; a move that angered the British sprinter and saw the two riders later disqualified from the sprint by ASO officials.

The win marks the 16th stage win in just four years for the former track star who had previously been frustrated by losing out on previous intermediate sprints and sprint finishes. Battling from seemingly out of nowhere he powered to the line to prove why he and his team claim he is the fastest sprinter in the world; a statement that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of rivals who term him arrogant, not least Romain Feillu who last night criticised such arrogance in contrast to riders such as Hushovd.

The edge-of-seat-watching finish came after a day that saw several riders hit the deck, the most notable being Alberto Contador. Tasting tarmac with Robert Gesink, the Spanish pre Tour favourite to win, who comes to the Tour under a dark cloud of controversy relating to a failed drugs test during last years Tour, has suffered a series of woes since day one. Gesink himself had earlier suffered a crash with Janez Brajkovic. The RadioShack team leader Brajkovic suffered concussion and a suspected fractured collarbone and left the stage and the Tour via ambulance; the pain from such injuries no doubt less than the pain he feels at the termination of his race.

Breaking away within the first 10 minutes of the race Jose Gutierrez (Movistar), Tristan Valentin (Cofidis), Sebastien Turgot (Europcar) and Antony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun) ensured they made their names known with their bravado. Passing through Yffiniac, the birthplace of Tour legend Bernard Hinault, they were soon reeled in, before Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Jeremy Roy (FDJ) launched off the front in a move that was more heart rendering than realistic: swallowed up with 2km to go, the sprinters made sure they got the sprint finish that on paper this stage would allow for. With Sky's Ben Swift showing there is more than one British sprinter this year, the gauntlet was down for the other sprint specialists. But once again Cavendish denied his rivals to take the victory he long desired.

Despite missing out on the sprint, the Norweigan strong man Hushovd retained the yellow jersey ahead of stage 6 tomorrow which sees the peloton head 226.5km from Dinan to Liseux for the Tour's longest stage along a rolling route through Normandy. Providing an opportunity for the puncheurs, the stage profile does not suit the pure climbers such as Andy Schleck. Just like the run into Mûr-de-Bretagne this stage could see a brave breakaway rider propel himself from the peloton, which is sure to fracture under the pressure of the pace being set to hunt him down, to a victory fresh from a descent of the Côte du Billot less than 30km from the finish.

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