Cavendish turns pedals in anger after Dwars crash

World champion lashes out at Katusha rider for causing crash with careless bottle toss

Mark Cavendish passed part of his day in a hospital Thursday due to a crash, blamed on a team Katusha rider. The world champion wrote on Twitter that  he underwent an echo scan on his shoulder and that it, “feels sore, but not too bad.” He added that the scan was “just to be safe.”

Team Sky’s world champion crashed with 15 kilometers to go in Belgium’s semi-classic Dwars door Vlaanderen Wednesday. He accused team Katusha, saying one of its riders threw a bottle into his front wheel.

“200 kilometers on Belgium’s worst roads. All ok. 15km from finish, peloton’s riding easy and a d—khead throws a bottle in my front wheel. Crashed hard.”

He added that all new racers “should take a written and practical test to get license.”

Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won the 200km race in Waregem; Katusha’s Maxime Vantomme placed 19th. Besides 36-year-old Oscar Freire, the Russian-backed team fielded a young squad in the northern classics opener. Its other three finishers averaged 23 years: Vantomme is 26, Rüdiger Selig is 23 and Marco Haller is 20.

In the past, Andrei Tchmil brought in sprint legend Mario Cipollini to guide his youthful teams. Over the winter, Hans-Michael Holczer took over as general manager and former HTC-Highroad director Valerio Piva joined the squad. Piva and Cavendish worked closely together at HTC.

Erik Zabel now guides the young Katusha riders and essentially took over Cipollini’s role. Zabel also came from HTC, which closed shop at the end of last year. Several riders and staff went to Omega Pharma, but there is a distinct HTC feel within Katusha.

“It’s a Russian project; the majority of the cyclists are Russian. These young guys want to learn and have the desire, which is good. They are difficult, but like every rider who needs to break out of his fixed ideas. It’s not like it’s just the Russians, it’s also the case for the others,” Piva told VeloNews.

“The big Highroad team spread itself throughout the peloton, be it riders, directors or managers. Holczer gave me a free role to make changes. However, it’s not going to become Highroad and you need some time to make changes.”

Piva worked with Freire in the past at Mapei. He is more excited about helping develop the team’s young riders to create a tight-knit group.

“It’s a different culture than what I was used to. There’s a lot of work to do. It’s a gamble,” Piva said.

“I’m positively surprised about the group of riders I’ve taken over. I’m enthusiastic about the work we’re doing. The boys are excited about the new change.

“These guys listen and want to improve. They want to hear my new ideas and discover if there are new ways to train, new training tools and new equipment.”

Piva began working with Cavendish when the Brit started racing for the T-Mobile team as a stagiaire in August 2008. He guided Cavendish to 20 stage wins in the Tour de France, as well as a win in the 2009 Milan-San Remo.

Cavendish lost ground on Le Mànie climb in this year’s San Remo and never regained position. His goal was to win “La Primavera” in his rainbow jersey.

Seeing a water bottle fly into his wheel and crashing yesterday was not what Cavendish wanted after San Remo and prior to Ghent-Wevelgem on Sunday.

“He feels the pressure, even if this year I see him much more relaxed ahead of his big races,” Piva said. “Maybe it’s because he feels prepared and ready to race.”

Cavendish finished 58th yesterday. He faces 11 climbs, including the Kemmelberg, and 235.4 kilometers on Sunday in Ghent-Wevelgem.