Tour de France Stage 5 reaction: Winner Cavendish accuses ASO of trying to derail the HTC train

Difficult stage finishes in opening week follow his team's success in previous editions, claims Manx Missile

by Simon_MacMichael   July 6, 2011  

Mark Cavendish pre TDF press conference 2011.jpg

Mark Cavendish today rode hard for the line to secure the 16th Tour de France stage win of his career and immediately suggested that race organisers ASO have deliberately introduced some tricky stage finishes in the opening week year’s race to prevent him and his HTC-Highroad team from continuing to exercise their grip on sprint stages.

“I think what the organisers have done this year is they’ve made it hard to have a proper bunch sprint,” he explained on TV straight after powering his way to the line to beat Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert and Movistar’s Jose Joaquin Rojas to win Stage 5 in Cap Frehel this afternoon.

“I think that’s because we’ve been dominating in the last years,” he added. “We’ve brought the best team to work on the sprints at the Tour de France so we dominate the sprints. They’ve tried to make it a handicap this year – that wasn’t a bunch sprint, that was hard, real hard at the finish,” something he said was highlighted by the presence of riders such as Gilbert, Rojas and race leader Thor Hushovd in the finale.

Earlier in today’s stage, Cavendish had sat up and protested during the intermediate sprint as he seemed to be cut up by Quickstep’s Tom Boonen and Rojas, and the race jury agreed, taking away the points that both had secured, just as they had done to Cavendish and Hushovd after they went shoulder to shoulder to contest a similar sprint on Stage 3.

Before news of Boonen and Rojas getting disqualified from the intermediate sprint was made public, however, Cavendish explained how Monday’s decision to dock him points made matters more difficult for him to fight for position when things started getting physical in the sprint, illustrating his point with an incident from the end of today’s stage.

“[Andre] Greipel bashed into me, what am I supposed to do when a six foot two guy bashes into me? I can’t defend myself any more, I can’t do anything, so I just have to get bashed, there’s no way I can get them off. If someone smaller than me does it, I can do it, if someone bigger than me does it, I can’t, so I have to drop back.

“I thought that was my sprint over, you can see the likes of Brad [Wiggins] up there, you see what type of finish it was, if Brad’s going for it, it’s a hard finish. He went with 500 to go, bearing round to the left I just thought, ‘I’ll go, try and save some points.’”

He did more than that, securing a stage win for the fourth Tour de France in a row. His 16 wins puts him joint ninth in the list of all-time Tour de France stage winners, alongside Charles Pelissier, Rene Le Greves and Jacques Anquetil , and if you strip out time trial wins, he leapfrogs others ahead of him including Lance Armstrong.

Today’s win is one of the hardest-fought of the Manxman’s haul. “It was proper hard those last couple of hundred metres, my legs were just going, going, going,” he reflected. “I’m really, really happy with that.”

Later, Cavendish revealed that he was dedicating the memory of today’s stage win to his pet dog Amber who he owned with ex-fiancée Melissa Phillips and who he revelaed on Twitter yesterday had been put down.

"I want to dedicate this to Amber,” he said. “She was my little baby."

More reaction to follow
 

27 user comments

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Oh do belt up, you chippy little nob. Bunch sprints are *dull*, the first week of the Tour is famously boring that's why the organisers have shuffled things. It's not always about you.

Chuffy's picture

posted by Chuffy [183 posts]
6th July 2011 - 20:04

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i would much rather watch a week of stages resembling spring classics than traditional bunch sprints. Far more unpredictable and far more entertaining.

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posted by mrmo [854 posts]
6th July 2011 - 20:53

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could you do any better? bunch sprints are the highlights of the whole tour

Welly

posted by welly [1 posts]
6th July 2011 - 20:58

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Ha ha ha, nice one!

TurboJoe

posted by TurboJoe [52 posts]
6th July 2011 - 21:02

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we wait for yonks for a true heroic brit in the tour then we get the guys who try to pull him down. Sprints and bunch finishes are as much a part of the tour as anything else otherwise why have green jerseys, polka dot, white and yellow, they are awarded on merit for gods sake.

antonio

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posted by antonio [898 posts]
6th July 2011 - 21:07

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True Antonio, but the organisers have to keep the Tour interesting and a spectacle, it may have lacked bunch sprints but it certainly hasn't lacked interest - that's more what the organisers are interested in rather than trying to do down Cav.

Equally, so what if he shoots his mouth off a bit, at least he's not bland and most importantly he backs up his words by delivering where it counts. Just hope all that spontaneity isn't stifled if/when he goes to Sky.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4110 posts]
6th July 2011 - 21:23

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Deal with it and earn me some money.... Hypnotized

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posted by ashy_2002 [56 posts]
6th July 2011 - 22:22

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I'm fast getting bored of the Cavendish show. It is ALL about him.

"I can't believe I ate the whole thing..."

Cooks's picture

posted by Cooks [467 posts]
6th July 2011 - 23:48

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Cooks wrote:
I'm fast getting bored of the Cavendish show. It is ALL about him.

Isn't that the way with lots of great athletes one way or another?

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4110 posts]
6th July 2011 - 23:51

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Is it just me? I did not take Mark's statement as a criticisim of ASO just a statement that some finishes have been made more interesting. Thought the sprint finish was superb, thought the British involvement even more superb. No obvious potential overall winner this year? Bring it on Big Grin

posted by SideBurn [731 posts]
7th July 2011 - 8:07

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When I listened to it last night it didn't seem as clear cut as cav winging, more a statement that the aso have changed the game a little.

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posted by mrmo [854 posts]
7th July 2011 - 8:39

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I love the bunch sprints and I'm sure the French aren't too keen on Cav winning as many as he does. But you've got to hand it to the guy - he still wins difficult ones!

For those of you bemoaning the Cav show... I'm afraid there are a lot of us that do enjoy it! I think it's great that we have a British born natural winner with a bit of fire in his belly!

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posted by botoxking [30 posts]
7th July 2011 - 9:20

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The ASO do need to clarify what is allowed in a bunch sprint and when it is allowed.
Without that clarification, what do the riders do? It's not just Cavendish, but everyone involved in close racing.

Stage 5's sprint shows how good Cavendish is. He doesn't need the HTC train to win. We have a brilliant sprinter and all most of you do is knock him. Maybe it's because you can't be as good as him - shame, live with it.

Marky

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posted by Marky Legs [102 posts]
7th July 2011 - 9:21

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Fair play to ASO for mixing it up a bit and making it interesting and huge amounts of 'well done old bean' to Cav for winning a sprint like that against Mr toughbastardnumerouno. That alone makes me happy that Cav is a Brit. Sometimes though you just can't satisfy the Britbashing crowd Thinking

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posted by charlie bravo [47 posts]
7th July 2011 - 9:24

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Agree with sideburn and mrmo - this is just Cav saying that ASO have shuffled the pack a bit in setting the route. He doesn't say anything that suggests he's complaining about the change in course, just that it's different from previous years. And to be honest, I think he's totally justified in complaining about the over sensitivity towards contact in bunch sprints - he's no primadonna and he likes to get stuck in, like all the great sprinters over the years, and it is probably safer that way for the reasons he states. I'd rather have shoulder to shoulder (or helmet to shoulder) action than the football-style, hands in the air, appealing to the ref for a fowl rubbish that is now being forced in.

It is interesting, though, that even when Cav's not saying something controversial, everyone assumes he is. So perhaps it isn't Cav making it the 'Cavendish Show', but the fans and media? Either way, I think he's great value - every sport needs characters to keep it interesting, and Cav is certainly a character (whether he's being an idiot or a genius, and he manages both at times).

posted by step-hent [633 posts]
7th July 2011 - 9:25

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I'm all for Brits winning. I just prefer my athletes to show a bit of humility when they do, and aren't petulant when they don't (or when they do actually). I'd love Wiggins to podium, and I can't get enough of Geraint Thomas. Because they both seem like nice guys. Cav just seems like a massive nob. I was the same with the boxing the other day, I half wanted Haye to win as he is a brit, but the other half wanted him to get a hiding for being a nob.
I suppose the media does have a large part in this, I have to say I am pretty bored of ITV4 still going on about him getting docked on the intermediate the other day, and I daresay they will be going on and on about his ASO bashing speech for the lion's share of the programme tonight. I suppose I'll just have to suck it up tho.

"I can't believe I ate the whole thing..."

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posted by Cooks [467 posts]
7th July 2011 - 9:40

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I think it's fair to infer that he was saying that the route profile this year has been designed to prevent a single team dominating, and the fact is, in recent years that dominant team has been HTC due to the strength of the leadout train. "They've tried to make it a handicap this year" - that seems pretty unequivocal.

Don't get me wrong, I like Cav. Rather a sportsman who wears his heart on his sleeve than an anodyne personality who trots out the soundbites his team's PR gives to him and ends up saying nothing.

There's a lot of people out there who aren't fans. A lot of that I think is down to the immediate post-race behaviour when things haven't worked out, when someone shoves a microphone under his nose (and I'm talking from experience here after perhaps ill-advisedly tried to grab a quick word after one race that didn't work out).

Likewise, heaven help the journalist who asks him a question without having done their homework, who perhaps ask him a question based on incorrect facts. He does his homework, studying stages and races in detail, and expects others to do the same. Perhaps it doesn't look good when he's then shown being interviewed and apparently being difficult in refusing to answer a question, but you can see where he's coming from.

There was an awkward moment in the pre-TDF press conference when it was put to him that if he'd chased intermediate points, he'd have won the green jersey. He dismissed that suggestion.

In his view, it was getting docked points in the sprint where he was adjudged to have ridden Hushovd into the barriers that cost him the points classification. The point wasn't up for argument as far as he was concerned, although if he had chased intermediate sprints, perhaps those lost points wouldn't have made the difference.

The person asking the initial question wasn't about to press that point with him, though. A few raised eyebrows from some of the journalists in the room, a slightly awkward silence, then move on to the next question.

This is someone after all who lives to win bike races. So if he's ridden 200-odd kilometres to be edged out right at the end, perhaps by a rider who he thinks was looking to ride him into the barriers, it's understandable that pumped full of adrenaline he is going to say what's on his mind.

Yesterday's stage proved (once again) that he can win big races where the finale isn't flat, and where he hasn't got his leadout train at the front of the race coming into the closing few hundred metres. It's a point he reinforces in interviews. It's a point other riders such as Geraint Thomas highlight. It's a point his results demonstrate.

But there will still be people the next time he fails to win a race who will say, oh there was a hill, or he didn't have his train there, so what do you expect?

Arrogant, jumped up, to use two terms often thrown in his direction? No. Simply someone who on his day can ride a bike faster on the road than anyone else on the planet, has the results to prove it, and isn't afraid to speak his mind.

As I said, I like him.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7470 posts]
7th July 2011 - 10:10

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Cooks wrote:
I'm all for Brits winning. I just prefer my athletes to show a bit of humility when they do, and aren't petulant when they don't (or when they do actually). I'd love Wiggins to podium, and I can't get enough of Geraint Thomas. Because they both seem like nice guys. Cav just seems like a massive nob. I was the same with the boxing the other day, I half wanted Haye to win as he is a brit, but the other half wanted him to get a hiding for being a nob.

Kerching! Exactly right. Wiggy and Geraint, come to that Millar too, aren't exactly anodyne cardboard cutouts but they manage to avoid being arrogant, chippy tools. Being an obnoxious arse isn't an essential part of being a winner - see Farrar, Hushovd if you need examples of guys who manage to win without having a bubbling chip pan on each shoulder. Even Wee Robbie was less annoying.

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posted by Chuffy [183 posts]
7th July 2011 - 10:27

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Maybe if you had been brought up with the brilliance of Robert Millar; an outstanding rider but dull as dishwater when it came to post race comment you would be more appreciative of Mark's tell it like it is attitude. I get frustrated when athletes give clipped professional answers to questions, what is the point? A good example is the post F1 interviews, a waste of time. Would agree that Hushovd in particular is a great sportsman and orrator, others present well but David Millar? Maybe it's the surname? Yawn snore. Bradley Wiggins gave almost a one word answer to a long question in the pre-race presentation Yawn snore.

posted by SideBurn [731 posts]
7th July 2011 - 10:46

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'Arrogant, jumped up, to use two terms often thrown in his direction? No. Simply someone who on his day can ride a bike faster on the road than anyone else on the planet, has the results to prove it, and isn't afraid to speak his mind.

As I said, I like him.'

this. 100%. Stands and applauds.

posted by andyp [632 posts]
7th July 2011 - 10:49

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Some interesting comments made - I am a Cav supporter - cycling is full of different characters, different styles, abilities - hell, that's what makes cycling such a cracking sport. Different facets. Cipollini was a similar sort of charismatic whirlwind. I do think it is a good move to make the stages trickier, but Cav has proved that he is the fastest road sprinter on the planet, AND can hack it in difficult finishes. From what he said about the finishes this year, I get the impression he relishes the challenge - just watch him adapt to those situations and have those others push him.
Keep it up, Cav. Keep it up, G, Wiggo, Swifty and David Millar - I'm genuinely proud to be British and loving the tour so far.

Cycling - not just a pastime or sport - free your soul on the open road.

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posted by timbola [200 posts]
7th July 2011 - 11:26

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SideBurn wrote:
Maybe if you had been brought up with the brilliance of Robert Millar; an outstanding rider but dull as dishwater when it came to post race comment you would be more appreciative of Mark's tell it like it is attitude. I get frustrated when athletes give clipped professional answers to questions, what is the point? A good example is the post F1 interviews, a waste of time. Would agree that Hushovd in particular is a great sportsman and orrator, others present well but David Millar? Maybe it's the surname? Yawn snore. Bradley Wiggins gave almost a one word answer to a long question in the pre-race presentation Yawn snore.

I thought Millar R was famous for being a grouchy arse with the press?

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posted by Chuffy [183 posts]
7th July 2011 - 11:32

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SideBurn wrote:
I get frustrated when athletes give clipped professional answers to questions, what is the point? A good example is the post F1 interviews, a waste of time.

"I won, yes, but there were a lot of problems with the car..."

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
7th July 2011 - 13:25

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Not sure that Millar R was grouchy he just said stuff that came across as grouchy. I think it was his sense of humour. I Remember him once saying that Glasgow was a terrible place where it always rained. This was interpreted as a general attack on Scotland and did not go down well; I think he was proud of his Scottish ancestry (as am Sleepy. I think he has made comments about cycling since retiring that have been interpreted as negative. But his general demeanour was dull. Anyone know what Robert Millar is doing now? Not commentating I suspect...

posted by SideBurn [731 posts]
7th July 2011 - 14:07

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Not too sure how that Smiley got there instead of an 'I'

posted by SideBurn [731 posts]
7th July 2011 - 14:30

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Wiggo a 'nice guy'? Damned by faint praise - he seems a bit more complex than that!

posted by mrsminx411 [84 posts]
7th July 2011 - 14:32

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@Sideburn it's cos you followed the I with a bracket Sleepy
It's a goook smiley though - not seen that one before.

My last comment on Cav is that I'd say that what you see is what you get with him - that's what people who deal with him tell me anyway, same goes for Geraint Thomas. One of the things that struck me last week when we were at the Tour was that Cavendish genuinely seemed to be liked and respected by people involved with the other teams we were talking to.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4110 posts]
7th July 2011 - 21:33

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