The reason is simple often the breakaway never used to contest the sprints they just rode through, although if there were three in teh breakaway they usual tried to share the honours and the line money. Now however, there are points for the first 15 at the Intermediate sprint. The result is that there will now unless there is a big group out in front still be points on offer for the sprinters still with the peleton. One stage one with three escapees that was 13 points, today with 5 that was 10.
Now there is one important difference between a sprint on the finish line where 45 are on offer and the intermediate where a total of 20 for the top rider could be available. If a sprinter were give his all, fall off and end up bloodied and wounded, he would still be within the final 3km when this happened. he could limp in to the finish if he needed to and not face elimiation on time. What we have seen so far is that these guys are still sprinters when it comes to that intermediate sprint. Today two of the toughest came shoulder to shoulder, literally.
If you look at this Mark Renshaw has just peeled off in the second white Jersey, 5th wheel and the Yellow Jersey of Thor Hushovd then leans into Mark Cavendish on the bend. These guys were doing 60-65km/h at this point. If Cavendish where to hit a curb or gutter at that speed he would have come off. He needed room, he is worried that Hushovd would take the line of the rider in lime green ahead and force him off the road. Of course he is going to lean back to give himself space. This is a racing incident and at this point of the race a matter of self preservation. Indeed both the riders were still racing as second and third man once the last lead out man in Pink pulled off 200 metres further on down, and did not impede another racer in doing so.
Tour director of competition Jean-Francois Pescheux said:
"First of all Hushovd left his line and then Cavendish forced his way in. That’s a serious infringement. We can’t allow that.The question is where should Cavendish have gone if he couldn't keep the line as Hushovd had taken it. The straight line leads straight to the curb and disater. If a sprinter had come off and got badly hurt 94km from the end of the stage, it is unlikely that they would have have the cut off time, therefore ending his race.
"If we let this pass, in the sprint tomorrow there could be dozens of guys crashing and then people will be asking us 'Why didn’t you act’?"
Last year when Cavendish's lead out man Mark Renshaw was
Now there was a telling point in Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen's commentary that race Referees need to be in a sprint to experience what happens before making some of their judgement. A split second to make a decision for survival or an announcement some hours later with teh hindsight of video footage. As it was Cavendish who could have been eliminated came in first and Hushovd 6th of those sprinting from the pack, neither of them was put off by the incident, they dealt with it and got on with racing.
So you have made the race more exciting, and you are making for more agressive racing not once, but twice in a stage. So you are wanting the fearless to take their Tour in their hands at about the half way point, but not keep a line that will avoid trouble, risk a major off, a broken collarbone and a long limp home to try and get treatment to carry on.
Mind you if the rule about sprints:
2.3.036 SprintsRiders shall be strictly forbidden to deviate from the lane they selected when launching into the sprint and, in so doing, endangering others. from the UCI rules
Is going to be equally adherred to Mark Cavendish should be in 4th place on the stage look at Sébastien Hinault here, at 40 seconds in from the left, nudging into Farrar.