On a Tour de France stage that featured five categorized climbs, HTC-Columbia’s star sprinter Mark Cavendish handily won the field sprint behind Astana’s Alexandre Vinokourov. The dominant performance confirmed that it will take more than the eviction of his star leadout man Mark Renshaw and some steep pitches of road to get rid of the Tour’s sprint win record holder.
Although never happy with second place in a sprint, Cavendish was relaxed about finishing behind the attacking Vinokourov, and quick to praise the Kazakh’s effort.
“That was pretty incredible when he went on the climb; we were riding full gas,” Cavendish said. “I had to use my whole team the whole day so I didn’t have anyone. Maybe if some of the other sprinters’ teams decided to ride we could have brought him back, but that was a very impressive ride to get that win. I’m satisfied.”
By scooping up 30 points at the line, Cavendish vaulted up to third place in the green jersey competition behind Cervélo’s Thor Hushovd, who finished eighth on the stage, and new green jersey leader Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre, who finished third.
Petacchi now leads with 187 points, to Hushovd’s 185. Cavendish has 162. The HTC rider is focused on stage wins, and not chasing the smaller points available at intermediate sprints.
“It’s not worth using the team up for just a couple of points,” Cavendish said. The intermediate sprints award 6, 4 and 2 points for first through third. Stage finishes award points 25 deep, beginning with 35 points for first.
“I’m not the same type of rider as Thor,” Cavendish said. “It’s not possible for me to go in the mountains and get points solo like that. I’ve got to rely on the sprints.”
Hushovd was frustrated after the finish. By finishing five spots behind Petacchi, he lost the green jersey he spent most of the previous day earning in a breakaway. He said he hasn’t been able to return to his sprinting form after breaking his collarbone training in early May.
Cavendish’s last man in the HTC leadout, Mark Renshaw, was thrown out of the race Friday for headbutting Garmin-Transitions’ leadout man Julian Dean.
“We’ve got a great group of guys here. But it’s really, really difficult without Mark. With him I’m almost guaranteed [an ideal position to start the sprint]. I miss him,” Cavendish said. “I miss him as a roommate, also.”