Thursday, 5 July 2012

Tour de France: Stage 5 Rouen to Saint-Quentin

 When you are  hurtling along at 70km/h on a wide straight piece of road in the bunch of sprinters the last thing you need is come across a water bottle. Yet apparently this is what led to the domino affect that brought Robbie Hunter down in the South African champion's jersey and just behind him as circled the rainbow jersey of Mark Cavendish had nowhere to go. He hit the ground and emerged covered in dirt but with a shattered helmet and ripped left shoulder on this jersey and skin.

The ensuing chaos meant that a group of only 12 riders hit the line together with smaller pockets of riders coming along behind. Lotto-Belisol had the perfect lead out for their man André Greipel, ahead of Alessandro Petacchi (LAM), Tom Veelers (ARG), Matt Goss (OGE) and Peter Sagan (LIQ).

But because the crash happened at 2.6km from the finish everyone who was in the pack was thankful to be given the same time so there was no change in the Overall General Classification.

But it meant that all the hard work that Cavendish had put in down the road at Fécamp taking 4th place in the intermediate sprint behind the three riders in the break away was more than wiped out as his main rivals for the Green Jersey Griepel and Goss leapfrogged him in that competition on the line with Sagan increasing his lead.

Today's stage is 196km of flat racing from Rouen to Saint-Quentin. As usual the day after he crashes I expect Mark Cavendish to be bullish and up to make amends. The intermediate sprint at Breteuil is 109km into the stage. Cavendish has taken the last two of these. If he is up for racing this one we will know that he still has designs on green knowing that anything can happen to any of his opponents between here and Paris. If he doesn't contest it he may no longer be looking for Green but he'll know that one more win and he will equal Lance Armstong for stage wins in the Tour but more importantly for a sprinter it will equal André Darrigade, the French sprinter who between 1953 and 1964 won 22 stages in Le Tour. When Darrigade was World Champion in the 1960 Tour his only stage win was on stage 5 so maybe a little poetry of history will see his record equaled today.

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