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Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) scored another impressive stage victory Friday at the Vuelta a España, and even bunny hopped over the finish line in Burgos to put an exclamation point on his second-straight win after a searing lead-out from Matthew Goss.
Just as fast, the Manxster quickly accused Quick Step’s Wouter Weylandt of helping Garmin-Transitions’ Tyler Farrar in the sprints and even lodged a formal protest that he was boxed in during the first intermediate sprint in the 196km 13th stage from Rincón de Soto to Burgos.
Farrar and Cavendish are locked in a tight battle for the Vuelta’s points jersey. At Friday’s first intermediate sprint at Calahorra, Farrar won four first-place points, with Weylandt taking two second-place points and Cavendish taking one point with third.
“I’m never one to complain about a sprint, it’s the first protest I’ve ever put in my life. I feel I was disadvantaged by Tyler (Farrar) and Wouter (Weylandt) in the first sprint,” Cavendish accused. “I think they deliberately closed the door on me.”
Race officials did not rule on the protest because there was no TV footage of the sprint.
Farrar could not be reached for comment after the stage, but Garmin-Transitions sport director Bingen Fernández denied there is collaboration. Quick Step’s sport director Wilfried Peters also told VeloNews that Weylandt is not helping Farrar in the sprints.
“Absolutely not. Wouter lost position in the final corner and didn’t even contest the sprint, so he’s not helping anyone,” Peters said. “It’s true there is some friendship between Tyler and Wouter because they live in the same city in Belgium (Ghent) and they often train together, but he’s not helping him at all. He’s making his own race.”
Despite the drama, Cavendish tightened his grip on the points jersey with victory in Burgos. Farrar over-cooked the final corner and recovered to cross the line sixth. Cavendish now leads Farrar 111 points to 90, with race leader Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) third with 75.
“We got a nice cushion on points. Antón is going well and there are still three mountaintop finishes, so he could get some points. I’ll do the best I can,” Cavendish continued. “It’s unfortunate that Wouter is now helping Farrar in the sprints. That plays as a disadvantage because somebody from one team helping another makes it harder for us to control. Hopefully we’ll keep the jersey to Paris (sic).”
Cavendish was quick to thank his HTC-Columbia teammates, who rode piggyback on Garmin-Transitions’ effort to drive home the sprint after reeling an early breakaway. New Zealand’s Hayden Roulston abandoned early in the race, leaving Cavendish without an important engine in the sprints. The team already lost Bernard Eisel in the first week to illness.
Matthew Goss lead out Cavendish again so fast and so hard, Cavendish even admitted he had a hard time staying on his wheel.
“Goss went at a phenomenal pace. I was already in the red and it takes a little bit energy. It’s harder for me, it’s even harder for the guys behind me,” Cavendish said. “Matt did a great job and the rest of the guys, too. I am happy to win it.”
Farrar overcooked the final corner and said he’s not done fighting for the points jersey or the bunch sprints.
“Everything was perfect until there. It’s a crazy corner and that kind of hurt me a bit, it’s a pity after all the work the team did,” Farrar told VeloNews at the line. “First, I am worried about the rest of the Vuelta. I feel really good. I am really serious about winning another stage and fighting for the points jersey. After Madrid, we’ll worry about the worlds. I feel good right now. I am not totally wrecked. There are a lot of sprints in the last week.”
There were no major shakeups in the overall standings. Antón retained his 45-second lead to Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) going into three consecutive summit finishes that should go a long way toward crowning the 2010 Vuelta champion.
Carlos Sastre (Cervélo) crashed midway through the stage, but team officials were hopeful the 2008 Tour de France champion will be able to withstand the steep ramps of the Peña Cabarga that’s on tap in Saturday’s 14th stage.
Stage results | Go to: GC standings