Tag Archives: Mark Cavendish

2016 season in review: The year of Monument firsts

2016 was the year of Trump, Brexit, Zika, the Rio Olympics, Russians in Syria, terror in Brussles, terror in Nice, Climate change and nuclear deals, Pokemon Go, and Celebrities dying. It was also the year that Peter Sagan won his first monument and retained his world title, and Chris Froome ran up Mont Ventoux on his way to winning a third Tour de France.

I was in tough to pick a name for this years year in review. At first I was going to go with ‘the year of the Brits’. I mean, Froome won the Tour again, he was second at the Vuelta and he won an Olympic medal. The British track team dominated those games with some record breaking and historic moments. Geraint Thomas won the Paris-Nice and Team Sky got their first Monument win by way of a non-British rider. But it was the later that got me thinking of another kind of year this was: The year of first time Monument winners. And given that the majority of my focus is around road cycling, I figured that might be more apt.

Yes, all five monument winners were first time winners and there was some other firsts on top of that. Arnaud Demare won his first at Milan-San Remo. He became the first Frenchman to win a Monument since Laurent Jalabert took the 1997 Giro di Lombardia. Peter Sagan was next to break his Monument duct when he won at the Tour of Flanders. There had been even more pressure on him to win one than the whole of Team Sky and he delivered in style, wearing the rainbow jersey. A week later Matt Hayman got his first in superb fashion, at Paris-Roubaix.  Then, two weeks later, Team Sky finally got theirs when Wout Poels won Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He became the first Dutchman to win that race since Adri van der Poel in 1988. Following this, a summer of Grand Tour racing commenced in which the same old faces took home the spoils. Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana all proved victorious. The firsts came back  though at the fifth and final Monument: Il Lombardia. Esteban Chaves became the first Colombian to win a Monument and you don’t expect it will be their last. Likewise for Team Sky and Peter Sagan.

2016 was a monumental year for the world in lots of ways, though not always for good. There was controversy, political shake ups, and the continued threat of terror. The later even hit home to the cycling world with the events in Brussels and Paris. The attacks in Belgium came in the midst of the spring classics season. There was talk of cancelling the E3 Harelbeke as a mark of respect as well as for security reasons. But it went ahead and Michal Kwiatkowski won that day in a two-up sprint with Peter Sagan. Then there was the terrible attack in Nice while the Tour was taking place; hours after Froome was running up Ventoux. The threat and the fear was real and there was talk of cancelling the next days stage. But, cycling is the French sport; the Tour is their showpiece event and a window into the counties culture. By racing on the next day they showed that France itself would keep going.

So while the world was embroiled in political upheaval, the cycling season continued unabated. It wasn’t completely without scandal, of course. There was the Team Sky TUE issue that came off the back of the Fancy Bears hack. That had come in retaliation to the exposure of the depths of cheating within the Russian system…particularly in athletics. That then led to the timing of and type of TUE use by Bradley Wiggins and how that equated to Team Sky’s ethical stance. And from that to the mysterious jiffy bag and what was in it? Some questions remain unanswered and could drag into 2017. At worst Team Sky’s reputation took a dent. At best we got a reminder of how far cycling has come that this is what is now considered a major scandal in cycling.

Of course, there were some awful real and dark moments that hit cycling hard too. The Giant-Alpecin team were in Majorca when a car ploughed into their training ride. The incident injured six riders including John Degenkolb and Warren Barguil. Things got worse a few months later for the sport with the tragic deaths of Antoine Demoitié, 25, and Daan Myngheer, 22 on back-to-back days in March. Demoitié crashed and was then hit by a motorcycle at  Gent–Wevelgem. Myngheer had a heart attack during the first stage of the Critérium International. Then in May, during the Tour of Belgium, a crash caused by motorbikes brought down Stig Broekx. The Belgian suffered severe injuries and was placed into an induced coma. In June his Lotto Soudal team announced that Broeckx was in a vegetative state with severe brain damage. This past week it emerged that Broeckx had come out of his coma, but still faced a long road to recovery.

It was a rough time but the sport rallied around itself as it always does, and the racing continued. From those Monuments to the Grand Tours to the one week and other one day races, there was too much to mention here in any fair detail. As such what follows now are five moments of 2016 that stood out for me. They were the ones I thought of right away when I began to consider the season. So here they are, followed by several annual awards.

TOP 5 MEMORABLE MOMENTS

1. FROOME’S CHANGE OF TACTICS…INCLUDING RUNNING!
Before this past July, had you asked how Chris Froome might win the Tour, I would have resorted to the obvious. You know, attacking on the first summit finish, taking time in the time-trials, and marking his rivals the rest of the way. Froome did all that of course, but what you never would have thought to see was Froome attacking on a descent and attacking in the crossing winds. Then when his crisis moment came, and his Tour seemed in real trouble, we got the single best moment of the season. With his bike broke on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, Froome started running. It was an epic sight and one of the great images in the history of the great race. That picture of Froome running up Ventoux, swarmed by fans, was the moment of the 2016 season. It showed us the character of Froome and the determination that lies within him. At the 2016 Tour, Chris Froome looked less a robot than some perceive him. He attacked when his rivals least expected it and he chased every advantage he could. He animated what was an otherwise quiet Tour; made so, in some ways, by the strength of the team around him. In 2016 Froome became an opportunist as well as a three time Tour de France winner.

2. PETER SAGAN WINS AT FLANDERS
It had been coming. Near misses time after time…all those second places. But you got the feeling that with last years world championship win, Sagan had finally figured it out. You couldn’t imagine a rainbow curse with this man, and you felt 2016 might well belong to him. All that was missing from his already stacked palmares was a Monument. He placed well throughout the spring classics but his win at Gent-Wevelgem the week before hinted at peak form arriving at the perfect time. He rode strong through the race and on the final run up the Oude Kwaremont, he put the hammer down and blew away his final rival Sep Vanmarcke. That day he became a Monument man and you know it’s only the first.

3. THE FINAL WEEKEND OF THE GIRO
The Giro d’Italia looked won and done going into the final weekend. Steven Kruijswijk looked set to do what his fellow Dutchman, Tom Dumoulin fell a day shy of doing the previous September, and win a Grand Tour. He only had one weekend to see out. His nearest rival, Esteban Chaves was three minutes behind him. Pre-race favourite Vincenzo Nibali had been nowhere the whole race. But never count out the Shark, especially an Italian one who has won each Grand Tour before. On the cold, snow lined decent of the Colle dell’Angello, Nibali stepped up. He attacked the descent and on one fast corner, Kruijswijk ran wide and flew into the snow. He cracked completely in the ensuing chase and lost his pink jersey to Chaves as Nibali took the stage. The following day Nibali struck again. He didn’t win on the Sunday but he put time into his rivals and leapfrogged Chaves to take the race lead with a day to go. He had seized victory from the jaws of defeat. Chaves had to settled for second and Kruijswijk fell to forth behind Alejandro Valverde. It was a supreme comeback by Nibali.

4. MAT HAYMAN WINS PARIS-ROUBAIX
It was the race billed as the final showdown between Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen. If anyone was to spoil the party, it was Peter Sagan. Nobody gave an Australian named Matt Hayman, two weeks shy of his 38th birthday, a second look. Even when he got into the decisive move, nobody considered him. Not when it also contained classic names like Boonen, Stannard, Vanmarcke and Boasson Hagen. Yet when those five exhausted men opened up their final sprint inside that fabled velodrome, it was Hayman who timed it to perfection. With a face of utter shock he took the biggest win of his career.

5. CANCELLARA GOES OUT A CHAMPION
For Fabian Cancelleara 2016 was to be a retirement tour. Not in the typical sense of coasting it and receiving the accolades, but in trying to go out on top. It looked good when he won the Strade Bianche at the beginning of the season in real Cancellara style, but then he began to miss out on targets. He failed to win any of his beloved spring classics, highlighted by his crash at Paris-Roubaix and failure to catch Peter Sagan at Flanders. And he failed to finish both the Giro and the Tour. At both it was others who took the time-trial glory. It seemed like it had been a year too far for the great Swiss rider when he showed up to his final event at the Rio Olympics. Given his time-trial form, the road race seemed his best chance, but write him off at your pearl. In that race of truth, names like Dumoulin, Dennis and Froome were favourites; expected to prevail above Fabian. But Fabian dug deep. He dragged out one last effort from a body that had served him so well over the years. He smashed the course and took the gold by 47 seconds over Dumoulin and 1min 2sec on Froome. It was a brilliant way to go out and into retirement, doing so in a way in which we will all remember him: A champion.

Honorable mentions:

There were other magical moments too. Remember Tyler Farrar borrowing a fans bike and shoes to complete a stage at the Tour Down Under? And who can forget both Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan each finally getting a day in the yellow jersey? And speaking of Cavendish…how about his return to the throne as peloton sprint king? What about Contador and Quintana putting the hammer down on Chris Froome at the Vuelta? Van Avermaet becoming an unlikely Olympic champion on a hilly course? And Peter Sagan retaining his world championship crown in the desert? No doubt some of those will stand out as the best memories to some, while others will have moments I have completely failed to acknowledge. Such is the health and beauty of this sport now in 2016.

AWARDS

Cyclist of the Year: CHRIS FROOME
Some will disagree with this given I’ve overlooked Peter Sagan. But let’s face it, Chris Froome won the Tour de France in dominant fashion, taking two stage wins along the way. He then left France for Rio and took a bronze medal in the individual time-trial with a 12th place finish in the road race. Days later he flew into Spain and started the Vuelta, winning two stages and finishing second overall. Of the six stage races Froome entered in 2016, two of them Grand Tours, he won three and was second in another. If it was in doubt before the season began, there was no doubt when it ended that Froome was the best stage racer on the planet.
Runners up: Peter Sagan, Romain Bardet, Esteban Chaves and Mark Cavendish.
Past winners: 2011 – Philippe Gilbert; 2012 – Sir Bradley Wiggins; 2013 – Vincenzo Nibali; 2014 – Vincenzo Nibali; 2015 – Peter Sagan.

Sprinter: MARK CAVENDISH
The majority of experts had written Cavendish off. Sure people felt he could win a race or two here and there, but his days of sprint dominance, especially at the Tour, were over. But Cavendish always believed. He had turned his training to the track ahead of the Olympics and it appeared to help him find his pure speed again. He won the opening stage of the Tour, at last, to pull on his first yellow jersey and went on to win four stages in all. He won across the season, got an Olympic medal on the track and also took the GC at the Tour of Qatar.
Past winners: 2011 – Mark Cavendish; 2012 – Mark Cavendish; 2013 – Marcel Kittel; 2014 – Marcel Kittel; 2015 – Andre Greipel.

Climber: CHRIS FROOME
I thought hard about this one. I looked back at results because I couldn’t remember anyone completely dominating the mountain stages. And so it proved to be. Quintana was brilliant at the Vuelta, but invisible at the Tour. Froome was untouchable in France but vulnerable at the Vuelta. Niabli only showed up on the final weekend of the Giro and Contador is a shadow of his former climbing self. Esteban Chaves was consistent without being dominant. So who to pick? As push has now come to shove, I’ve gone with Froome. He was above and beyond the rest at Le Tour and was only edged at the Vuelta. Indeed, but for that calamity day when he lost his team as Contador and Quintana stole a march on him, he might well have won that race too despite tired legs.
Past winners: 2011 – David Moncoutie; 2012 – Joaqium Rodriguez; 2013 – Chris Froome; 2014 – Nairo Quintana; 2015 – Chris Froome.

Time-trialist: CHRIS FROOME
This was also a tough one. Nobody dominated the time-trials this season either. Different men won at the Tour, at the Olympics and the World Championships. So I’ve gone with Froome for that reason. The pure time-trialists failed to dominate and Froome even got in on the mix in their races. He won a time-trial at the Tour, the Vuelta and placed third at the Olympics.
Past winners: 2011 – Cadel Evans; 2012 – Sir Bradley Wiggins; 2013 – Tony Martin; 2014 – Sir Bradley Wiggins; 2015 – Rohan Dennis.

Most complete rider: PETER SAGAN
This one required the least thought of all. How could it not be? He won in spring on the cobbles, he won at the Tour and he retained his world championship. In any race that didn’t involve high mountains he was in the mix. He won yet another green jersey at the Tour including three stages with ten top ten finishes along the way. He was brilliant to watch. He is money in the bank.
Past winners: 2014 – Alejandro Valverde; 2015 – Peter Sagan.

Team: IAM CYCLING
This may seem so bizarre given they finished second last in the UCI World Tour team rankings and announced their withdrawal from the sport. But sod those rankings. They’re not well structured as far as I’m concerned. They factor in riders positions in general classifications rather than individual stage results. And the fact they announced their departure from the sport with more than half the season still to go only solidifies my decision. It would have been so easy for moral to sink and heads to drop, yet on they raced and they won stages at each of the three Grand Tours. Few teams achieved that feat. They worked hard and they got involved in races and we will miss them.
Past winners: 2012 – British Olympic track team; 2013 – Orica GreenEdge; 2014 – Tinkoff-Saxo; 2015 – Team Sky.

Hard man: PIERRE ROLLAND
Eyebrows raised when Pierre Rolland moved to Cannondale last winter. Moving away from the comfort of a French team was a brave decision. But the Frenchman wanted to reward his new team for showing faith in him and he wanted to do so at the Tour. But fate wasn’t on his side. He crashed a couple of times, once in a bad way and ought to have abandoned. Indeed speaking recently his team manager Jonathan Vaughters expected him to do so. Yet, on he went and the next day there he was in the break. He crashed again later in the Tour and never got the win he deserved but still came in 16th on GC.
Past winners: 2011 – Johnny Hoogerland; 2012 – Johan Van Summeren; 2013 – Geraint Thomas; 2014 – Alberto Contador; 2015 – Adam Hansen.

Domestique: WOUT POELS
An easy choice as far as I could see. Poels is a fine rider in his own right, highlighted by his victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but he bent himself over backwards for Froome at the Tour. People complain about the dominance of the Sky team and their ability to control mountain stages, but like that or not, you have to admire Poels. He was always the last man with Froome and was never more crucial that on stage 19 when Froome crashed. It was Poels who guided him home that day ensuring a third Tour win would be Froome’s.
Past winners: 2013 – Adam Hansen; 2014 – Tony Martin; 2015 – Geraint Thomas.

King of Spring: PETER SAGAN
Throughout the spring classics season I ran a competition to find the best overall rider. Usaing the 14 major spring clasic races from Omloop through to Liège, including the 4 Monuments, the points format took on that of Formula One with 25pts for 1st down to 1pt for 10th) and each race was equal regardless of status. Needless to say, Sagan walked it with 104 points. Cancellara was second on 67 points and Enrico Gasparotto third on 53 points.
Past winners: 2012 – Tom Boonen; 2013 – Peter Sagan; 2014 – Niki Terpstra; 2015 – Alexander Kristoff.

Retiring: GOOD BYE TO…
Fabian Cancellara, Joaqium Rodriguez, Ryder Hesjedal, Frank Schleck, Johan Vansummeren, and JC Peraud, among others.

Have a happy Christmas and a merry new year. I’ll be back then and within a few weeks of 2017 getting under way, so too will a new cycling season at the Tour Down Under.

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Thoughts on Truth and Reconciliation

Last week two cyclists -– one a former drug cheat, the other a current day pro believed to be as clean as they come -– were speaking out for and against the idea of a Truth and Reconciliation (T&R) process for the sport of cycling. To think about it immediately you would imagine the drug cheat would be the one against it with the clean cut modern day pro desperate for the cheats that came before him to announce themselves so his generation could move on with their careers. But it isn’t so simple. Lance Armstrong is the retired/banned cheat; Mark Cavendish is the current pro.

To Cavendish it is the egos of the cheats that will ensure they don’t come clean and it’ll only open the door further on cycling’s skeletons, something that he and his fellow professionals will be left to deal with. He no doubt fears that sponsors and TV networks could walk away if more and more scandals are unveiled and further bad press heaped upon the sport. In Armstrong’s view the sport needs a T&R to move forward. He believes that to throw the door open on the said skeletons would be to clear it out once and for all and save the problems coming out in drips and drabs for the next decade, something that would be worse for cycling and its sponsors and TV networks.

I suppose it is safe to say that both have a point and the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, as ever.

The only way I see a Truth & Reconciliation process working is if it happens quickly and at one go. Have everyone who has raced in the last twenty years meet for a private interview with the UCI and talk about what they experienced. Take those interviews and produce a complete document … a documented history of doping in cycling 1993-2013 as seen by the cyclists themselves and release it for us all to consume in one go. The bad press it would generate would be huge of course but it would be limited to the time it takes for the mainstream media to get distracted by something else allowing the sport to press on. Present it over a winter so that come the new season we’ve gotten over it and are ready to enjoy the racing rather than be distracted by it.

We could read it, digest it, learn from it, ensure the same mistakes are not repeated and then move ahead. The riders would have cleared their conscience at the same time and everyone would feel better.

Right?

Well, not so fast. How would you get everyone to willingly come forward? Is a retired professional who may have taken drugs but who never got caught taking drugs going to come forward and tell the truth? And what about active riders who tell the truth are they served with any form of punishment?

Lance thinks they should be and he thinks the punishment should be equal. Or in other words, that people like him shouldn’t be landed with life-time bans while those who testified against him get six months on the UCI naughty step. Armstrong must see the possibility of a T&R as his ticket back into competitive sport -– albeit sport that is well down the rung from the professional cycling he once competed in. He knows that if he’s offered a shorter ban -– one equal to the rest –- then he has plenty to tell them. It’s why he’s been coy on certain subjects in which he has been interviewed on. To have told it all to Oprah would have been to leave all his cards on the table and to leave him without a invite to any potential T&R party.

Lance is right though. The punishment should be equal. Where I differ on Lance is that there shouldn’t be any punishment at all. If there’s punishment to be dished out, a T&R would become impossible. Go back to the retired pro who may have cheated but was never caught. Why would he come forward if he risked getting results stripped? And what of the active pro? Would he want to open up on his transgressions only to serve a ban, receive a fine and risk unemployment for it?

Of course you could put in place some condition that if you are later found to have lied or if you didn’t tell everything (or anything) that a large penalty awaits you. But then again, the retired pro from yesteryear only has his reputation to gamble –- they can’t fine him or ban him -– so he might think it worth the risk whereas the professional of today would have more pressure on him. It only skews the playing field in similar way to which drugs did in the first place despite the illusion that it equaled it.

As someone once said, between the idea and the reality, falls the shadow. The idea of the T&R is great, but the reality of pulling it together is different altogether.

So what do they do?

Well, if they can’t pull everyone together for one big weekend of truth telling then the only thing they can do is let us make up our own minds and move on with our lives and our enjoyment of the sport.

Let me explain.

Most cycling fans by now have a fair idea as to how bad the sport got in what I now like to refer to as ‘the era’ -– that time between about 1990 and 2010 when blood doping become prevalent. In fact, we have more than ‘an idea’. I think it’s safe to say we know fine rightly that almost all of them were involved in some form of blood doping or another then -– certainly anyone with any degree of big-time success -– but that in recent years a corner has begun to be turned and steps have been taken to move things forward.

That isn’t to claim doping has been purged from cycling. Where there is money to be made and success to be gained there will always be cheating. Every sport has issues with performance enhancing drugs and probably always will to some degree or another, but should cycling continue to be singled out? Yes there will be some out there in the peloton still cheating, but you’d be deluded to think that it’s as bad as it was and that steps haven’t been taken in both testing and the culture of the peloton to change things.

And remember, this isn’t the testing of the Armstrong era when they couldn’t test for EPO and when they did little out of competition testing, but rather an anti-doping era that should be the envy of the sporting world. It’s time to accept the past is for what it was, that confirming what we know means for little and stripping results left right and centre would be to try and pretend that it never happened.

The younger generation of riders -– the vast majority at least -– are coming in with a different attitude. Even the old hands who might once have dabbled in the dirty stuff in a time when the culture of the sport left them with little choice if they wanted to make it -– like Ryder Hesjedal, Tom Danielson, David Miller, and so on –- have left it behind and turned over a new leaf. Heck even Alberto Contador looks a shadow of the former all-conquering grand tour rider we knew before he fell afoul of some bad beef at the 2011 Tour.

It all adds up to whether a T&R into the history of something we already know about is going to serve today’s peloton well if all it amounts to is another scandal and another opportunity for the mainstream media to point the finger at cycling as a joke sport despite the changes that have occurred in recent years. Can it be handled any other way? The more I think about it — the more I think of the impossibility of getting it all done in one foul swoop with everyone involved in the process — the more I doubt it.

Some people want a T&R not so much for the good of the sport but because they love a juicy scandal. Nothing would interest them more than for it to be dragged out over weeks and ideally around the same time of the Tour de France. Some people have become obsessed with the subject of drugs in cycling. Yet these self same people will watch other sports without raising so much as an eyebrow. You can see why Cavendish is also saying that other sports need to do something … why should it be cycling that is doing everything? An element exists on the likes of Twitter or comment sections of cycling related websites who care little for the sport itself but get off hardcore on the subject of doping in cycling. It’s pathetic and it’s what could ultimately drag down any potential good in a T&R session.

As a cycling fan first and foremost, the last thing I want to see is another scandal for the sake of another scandal. Not because I would prefer to ignore it, but because I don’t quite see the gain of going looking for it?

Heading into 2014 there’s so much to look forward to in the sport. It’s time to enjoy the racing like we can enjoy our other sports, to allow it to entertain us as it so often has this past season, and to let the anti-doping control worry about catching the cheats. If the last decade has taught us anything it’s that more often than not if you’re cheating, you’ll eventually get found out.

Yes, feel free to question what you see now and going forward, but don’t let it dominate your enjoyment of the sport. Truth and Reconciliation of cycling’s history is all well and good in theory if it ultimately draws a line in the sand allowing us to move on, but what it’s more likely to do is leave some with more questions unanswered and leave those seeking a cycling scandal with more wood on their bat with which to beat the sport. Cycling is a beautiful sport that brings so much more than just drug stories and scandalous speculation, and now more than ever it should be treated as such.

News of Mark Cavendish signing for OPQS breaks the tedium of continued doping stories

It became clear as the season went on that Cav was looking away. Photograph: Sirotti

Thank you Omega Pharma Quick Step. Thank you Mark Cavendish. Just when the fallout from the ‘Lance Armstrong was a big-fat really-fit cheat’ was beginning to get a little tedious what with non-stop stories about the history of doping in cycling going round and round and round, you guys go out and give us something different … a new piece of news … something that can make us debate what it means for racing in 2013 from a racing perspective.

With this move the shackles of Sky are now off the ankles of Cavendish and he can once again be the main man with a lead-out train built around him. Sky were right to pour their efforts into Bradley Wiggins once it became clear he was capable of winning the Tour de France, and it proved to be the right move. Winning the Yellow jersey is more important than the Green, and infinitely more important than winning stages, and I think even Cavendish would accept that, but it was clear he had to move on to pastures new because of it.

At OPQS, stage wins and a Green jersey at the Tour will be one of the major goals, along with results in the spring classics. With Tom Boonen set up nicely to win the later, signing Cavendish is the perfect coup for the former. People will talk about how they’ll work Boonen v Cavendish, but I don’t see it being a problem because of the races each will target. Boonen isn’t the pure sprinter he once might have been — if he was ever a pure sprinter — and if he does ride in the Tour, I reckon he’ll be more than glad to play the roll of leadout man. Boonen has become the all-rounder in recent years as seen by his results earlier this season, and that shouldn’t change in 2013 with Cavendish now on board.

If the stage is flat, isn’t a time trial and you can’t get him to fall off, Cavendish will ALWAYS beat you

That is how it seems anyway. We’ve had five stages of this Giro now and Mark Cavendish of Team Sky has won two of them. Of the other three, two were time trials (one individual, one team) and the other was the stage in which he was brought crashing to the ground by a rival. Today’s stage isn’t super flat but it’s still not lumpy enough to guarantee someone other than Cavendish wins. If the bunch is together with 300m to go and nobody can quite muster the confidence to take him out, then you can be sure he’ll going to cross the line with his arms in the air holding three fingers aloft.

“If didn’t feel good all day with that many anti-inflammatories,” boasted Cavendish as if to remind his rivals how much he would have beaten them had he felt good. “I was suffering with the heat. It wore me out. I was comfortable on the climb, but I was dead at the finish,” he continued as reporters around him checked the results sheet once again to make sure he actually won. “I could see Gossy’s shadow the whole way, getting closer and closer. I was happy to hang on for the win.”

Gossy is Matt Goss, winner of stage three. He finished second to Cav but maintains the World Champion is beatable. “If I didn’t think he was beatable, there wouldn’t be any sense in me trying to take him on whenever I can,” he said without mentioning that beating him is only possible with the aid of Roberto Ferrari.

Cavendish was joined on the podium by his daughter Delilah who at just over a month of age can claim to have spent more time on the podium this season than Cavendish’s sprint rival, Thor Hushovd.

Actually, it was a testament to Cav’s form — despite what drivel he rolls out about being dead at the finish — that he was in the mix for the win. The group he sprinted with contained just 17 riders with the larger peloton five seconds back. Some of his would be rivals for the sprint including the American Tyler Farrar, Cav’s good buddy Ferrari and the aforementioned Hushovd, all came in with a medium sized group 9min 14sec behind after being dropped on the rides speedy run-in.

Ramunas Navardauskas retains the pink jersey while Cavendish moves up to fifth.

Mamma Mia!! Things get spicy in Denmark

There is an unwritten rule in big-time professional cycling that no Grand Tour is officially underway until there is a crash involving Mark Cavendish. This year, the Giro only had to wait until the second sprint stage to get it, though on this occasion Cavendish was an innocent bystander. This crash appeared was absolutely caused by an inexplicable swerve by Roberto Ferrari, who like his name sake under the control of Michael Schumacher at the 1997 Jerez Grand Prix, swerved into the side of his rival at high speeds. Unlike Villeneuve that day in Jerez, Cavendish was unable to escape as he along with a host of others came crashing to the ground.
The most impressive bit of the video is the ability of quite a few to jump over Cavendish at such speeds without causing further accidents or injury to the World Champion.

Rightly Cavendish was furious after the race and took to his Twitter account to spit his venom. “Ouch!” he began as though he Tweeted it from his lying position on the road.
“Crashing at 75kph isn’t nice! Nor is seeing Roberto Ferrari’s manoeuvre. Should be ashamed to take out pink, red & World Champ jerseys,” he blasted via the keyboard of his Blackberry. Indeed, it wasn’t a good day to be wearing a recognised jersey what with Cav in rainbow being joined by Phinney (second day in a row on the ground) in pink and…someone else called Cavendish in red? also going down.

And he didn’t stop there on his way to naming Ferrari as the biggest sprint villain since the retirement of Djamolodine Abdoujaparov. “Apparently Roberto Ferrari has said to journalists, when asked about the incident, that he can’t see what happens behind him & doesn’t care. Is the team of Roberto Ferrari or the UCI going to do the right thing? Other riders, including myself, have been sent home for much less.”

Indeed, it would have seemed “the right thing” for such an act would have been to reopen the Colosseum in Rome and force Ferrari to fight the lions, but as it turns out the race organizers have handed down the slightly lesser sentence of relegating Ferrari to last on the stage along with a 200 Swiss Franc fine, 30-second time penalty, and the loss of 25 points in the points competition.

Given Ferrari’s probable salary along with the likelihood of him winning the points competition and of him losing a dozen times that time penalty on the first mountain stage, this punishment is also knows as, nothing at all.

Speaking after the race to the press, Ferrari played the roll of an innocent man. “I don’t know what happened behind me. I was trying to make my sprint,” with the kind of excuse that ranks up there with his fellow Italian cruise liner captain who claimed he slipped, tripped and fell into a lifeboat which sped away before he had the chance to get out. “I do not want to cause trouble. I tried to stay on my line, but if I am relegated, I will accept it.” Which is all well and good if his intended line was at a forty-five degree trajectory into the barriers.

Taylor Phinney maintains the race lead because the crash came within 3kms of the finish and therefore everyone gets the same time in the result of an accident which will come as a sigh of relief to him after his previous sigh of relief cost him dear… his Twitter feed takes up the story. “As I began to let out a sigh of relief w/ 200m 2 go, bikes and bodies began 2 bounce around in front of me. Don’t like it when that happens!” I wonder why?

Battered and bruised Cavendish and Phinney, going by their speedy post-crash arrival on Twitter, have lived to fight another day, though that day won’t be tomorrow. Nope, tomorrow is surely the earliest rest day in Grand Tour history and both those guys and the others who lost skin today, will need it.

P.S. It should be pointed out that Matt Goss won the stage so congratulations to him.

Wait, what? Cavendish won a sprint stage? No way…

The question was never going to be whether Mark Cavendish would win a stage at this years Giro, with Cav these days it’s always a given he will … and he did, today. The question remains, how many will he win. With no serious climbing until the final week of the Tour there is every reason to think he might well break some kind of a record by winning a hatful of stages. Note the words “some kind of” and “hatful”. I could go research the exact numbers but I’ll assume they are beatable and that someone a long time ago didn’t go win every single stage.

Cavendish beat out all the usual names (Matt Goss, Tyler Farrar, Thor Hushovd, Daniele Bennati) that don’t stand a chance when the Man from the Isle of Man is on form and must always watch him crossing the line with his arms above his head (above) wishing they were professionals in a different era when he wasn’t around.

After the race Cavendish broke from tradition and claimed that the win was all him and that he could have done it without his lazy team … okay, I jest. Cavendish rolled out the usual lines of thanking the team heaping praise on Ian Stannard who according to the World Champion “did 150 kilometres alone reeling in the break,” before emphasizing his effort with a “he did incredible.”

Explaining the finish Cavendish took us through it: “Geraint took me perfect and went exactly when he was supposed to. I was able to come off him and win the stage so I’m very, very happy.” Well good for you Mark, good for you.

It was the classic flat grand tour stage. Let a break get away early … let them dangle in front of the group, getting a lead (in this case 13:15) large enough to make people think there is a chance … then, with the aid of race radios, time the pull back to perfection setting it up for the fast men. I didn’t see the race, but I have to imagine that but for the beautiful Danish scenery, and the final couple of kilometres, the race in full probably aided in your Sunday afternoon nap.

There was one other moment of drama however and it involved the man who loves pink, Taylor Phinney, who crashed with 8 kms to go and had to do his second prologue in as many days to catch the bunch before he lost his maliga rosa. “I just found myself on the ground, having touched wheels and lost balance,” said a stunned Phinney. “Then I couldn’t get my chain back on. So I kind of made a second prologue effort. I was quite scared there for a second that I was going to lose the jersey.” How he managed to close the 30-second gap back to the field without his chain on is beyond me but surely the ride of the day despite what Cavendish had to say about Stannard.

No change in the GC thanks to no time bonus’ on the line and tomorrow the race stays in Denmark for one more stage … a super flat stage that I can confirm now will be won by Mark Cavendish.