Marcel Kittel takes sprint and now appears to have the measure of Sky’s Mark Cavendish
Clash of shoulders between Manxman and Kittel’s last lead-out man Tom Veelers on the final bend ended with the Dutchman falling heavily
Germany’s Marcel Kittel (right) outsprints compatriot Andre Greipel to win stage 10 of the Tour de France.
The other sprinters in the peloton and their domestiques have found Mark Cavendish’s measure. By the sparkling waters of the Channel, in front of Vauban’s walled port city, he was beaten into third place by the German duo of Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel, making the Manxman’s score for this Tour one victory in three opportunities.
Cavendish’s straight-line speed remains unmatched, but critically both his main opponents have got their respective trains as well organised as Cavendish’s Omega Pharma-Quickstep squad, and better on occasion.
This in turn makes it impossible for him to get the final straight run at the line which he needs, as Cavendish’s style is largely reliant on gaining an initial advantage with his jump rather than coming from behind as Kittel did here when he overhauled Greipel in the final metres.
He has been disrupted on occasion in the past – for example at Redon in the 2011 Tour with Tyler Farrar – but Greipel’s Lotto and Kittel’s Argos are more consistent than Farrar’s Garmin were. A repeat of Cavendish’s 2011 victory in the green points jersey is looking less likely by the day as he is still more than 100 points behind Peter Sagan.
“We ran out of riders,” said Cavendish, who lost the wheel of his final lead-out man Gert Steegmans just when he needed it most. “I came from too far back. When I came out it was too late, there were two strong riders in front of me. We could have done things a little bit differently.”
Long and hard
“We were beaten in the old-fashioned way,” said his directeur sportif, Brian Holm. He could have fared worse than third, however: the commissaires looked long and hard at a clash of shoulders between him and Kittel’s last lead-out man, Tom Veelers, on the final bend, which ended with the Dutchman falling heavily.
Cavendish’s explanation was that he was trying to make his way on to Greipel’s wheel as the German launched the sprint, and he added later via Twitter: “I believe I didn’t move line. I’m actually coming past Veelers & we touch elbows when he moves.” According to the race director, Jean-Francois Pescheux, the commissaires decided Veelers was at fault because he was dropping back through the group of sprinters hence their view that no action should be taken.
Veelers blamed Cavendish, however. “I remember that I did the lead-out for Marcel Kittel, I steered off, let myself go back and suddenly I get ridden off my bike by Mark Cavendish. ” Asked by French TV if he felt Cavendish had pushed him, he replied: “Yes, I think it’s clear to see from the video that he’s riding me on the ground.”
Kittel’s take on the episode was more diplomatic: they were “very unlucky they bumped into each other. I don’t imagine it was done on purpose.”
Whoever was at fault, the fact was that this marked a breakthrough for Kittel, as unlike his stage one victory in Corsica, when Cavendish had been held up by a crash, here the 25-year-old overcame both the Manxman and Greipel, overhauling the latter in the final metres to become the first rider to win two stages in this Tour.
The form of Team Sky remains an open question. At this key point in the race Chris Froome had only one domestique for company. While Ian Stannard did a herculean job to keep the race leader in front, the Briton was again isolated compared to, for example, Alberto Contador, who had three riders at his side.
Froome should give himself and his fragile-looking team a more substantial cushion during today’s time trial from Avranches to the Mont-Saint-Michel.However, the biggest question is whether Contador can improve on the abysmal showing he put in on a comparable stage in the Dauphine Libere stage race in June, where Froome relegated him to over three minutes.