Friday, July 23, 2010

TDF 2010 Stage 18: There Are No Legs to Match These

Despite a bronchial infection and missing his lead out men, Mark Cavendish sprinted to the finish at Bordeaux today, besting his competitors by a couple of wheel lengths.

It was one more testament to the Biker Boy's massive sprint muscles, which made Alessandro Petacchi, Robbie McEwen and Thor Hushovd looked like they were moving backwards.

What's more first he used Hushovd's wheel, and then that of Alessandro Petacchi who started too soon, to launch his famous missile, a tactic that the Hushovd has used many times behind the Manx born sprinter.

Julian Dean of Garmin Transitions who has taken over the job as team sprinter since Tyler Farrar left the Tour with a broken bone in his wrist came in second.  (Maybe he should switch places with Farrar on the team roster.)

This was Cavendish's fourth stage win at this year's Tour, and his 14th Tour stage win overall. He is now 16 points shy of winning the Green Jersey which switched hands today and went from Hushovd to Petacchi. You know there is going to be a showdown in Paris, bronchitis withstanding.

This mostly flat 198 km stage from Salies de Bearn to Bordeaux was the last opportunity for riders to make a name for themselves by winning the stage from a breakaway, or for one of the sprinters to gain more points. That included Cavendish, Petacchi, and Hushovd.

In the final kilometers of the stage, Tony Martin of HTC Columbia was queuing up his men behind him, with a wide 2 lane straightway in front of them. Team Sky made a rare appearance at the front, driving the pace of the peloton. But they were soon outnumbered by the hungry sprinters from the more experienced teams.

What happened to Cavendish and his teammates?  Behind Sky was Lampre and behind them in about 9th position was the old Cav. A mass scramble to the end that looked like it was going to end in a serious crash brought Cav out to the front from behind Hushovd's wheel, and once he was launched, there was no catching him.

Daniel Oss of Liquigas who made an early break at 11 km, kept his lead over the peloton to 6.6 km to the end, 13 seconds ahead of the peloton, as the riders entered the historic town of Bordeaux.  The faces of the sprinter teams behind him showed the anxiety of men that didn't want their sprint to be tampered with by some fool break.

This morning Cavendish admitted that he was suffering from bronchitis, which could partially explain why the Lampre riders were out in front to protect the position of their sprinter Alessandro Petacchi: he might actually have had a chance today against the weakened Manx Missile.

The second breakaway of the stage today was formed when Matti Breschel attacked and took Daniel Oss (LIQ),  Jerome Pineau (QST) and Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ) with him.

At 63 km to the finish the break had 2 minutes and 15 seconds ahead of the peloton--a group full of anxious and aggressive sprinters wanting to do damage on each other.

That advantage narrowed to one rider, Oss, who had valiantly shouldered the break practically to the end, but at 2.3 miles turned into the wind, and was passed by the peloton with riders muscling their ways to the front.

PS it's funny how American movie stars enjoy riding along with the race. Today there was actor Tom Cruise on a motorcycle in front of the peloton and then actress Cameron Diaz in one of the team cars. Later they stood on the podium with Alberto Contador when he accepted the Yellow Jersey for today's stage.

Last year we had Armstrong's friend and New York resident, actor Ben Stiller. Small world, we attended the same high school (not together), the Calhoun School. That's nice, but it's a shame how the world of sport has mimicked the march to celebrity adoration we see in entertainment.


Overall General Classification Standings at the End of Stage 18
1. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 88h 09' 48"
2. SCHLECK Andy 11 TEAM SAXO BANK 88h 09' 56" + 00' 08"
3. SANCHEZ Samuel 181 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 88h 13' 20" + 03' 32"
4. MENCHOV Denis 191 RABOBANK 88h 13' 41" + 03' 53"
5. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen 101 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 88h 15' 15" + 05' 27"
6. GESINK Robert 195 RABOBANK 88h 16' 29" + 06' 41"
7. RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin 77 KATUSHA TEAM 88h 16' 51" + 07' 03"
8. HESJEDAL Ryder 54 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 88h 19' 06" + 09' 18"
9. KREUZIGER Roman 44 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 88h 20' 00" + 10' 12"
10. HORNER Christopher 23 TEAM RADIOSHACK 88h 20' 25" + 10' 37"
11. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon 161 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 88h 22' 34" + 12' 46"
12. PLAZA MOLINA Ruben 168 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 88h 22' 49" + 13' 01"
13. LEIPHEIMER Levi 25 TEAM RADIOSHACK 88h 24' 12" + 14' 24"
14. KLÖDEN Andréas 24 TEAM RADIOSHACK 88h 24' 32" + 14' 44"
15. ROCHE Nicolas 81 AG2R LA MONDIALE 88h 25' 48" + 16' 00"
16. VINOKOUROV Alexandre 9 ASTANA 88h 27' 45" + 17' 57"
17. GADRET John 85 AG2R LA MONDIALE 88h 27' 47" + 17' 59"
18. LÖVKVIST Thomas 37 SKY PRO CYCLING 88h 28' 18" + 18' 30"

Stage Standings, Stage 18

1. CAVENDISH Mark 111 TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA 4h 37' 09"
2. DEAN Julian 52 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
3. PETACCHI Alessandro 208 LAMPRE - FARNESE 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
4. MC EWEN Robbie 75 KATUSHA TEAM 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
5. FREIRE Oscar 193 RABOBANK 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
6. HAGEN Edvald Boasson 36 SKY PRO CYCLING 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
7. ROELANDTS Jürgen 108 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
8. ROJAS Jose Joaquin 169 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
9. BOLE Grega 202 LAMPRE - FARNESE 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
10. PEREZ MORENO Ruben 186 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
11. TURGOT Sébastien 158 BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
12. ROUX Anthony 66 FDJ 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
13. MONDORY Lloyd 87 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
14. HUSHOVD Thor 95 CERVELO TEST TEAM 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
15. BALLAN Alessandro 122 BMC RACING TEAM 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
16. ARASHIRO Yukiya 152 BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
17. MAASKANT Martijn 56 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
18. ROCHE Nicolas 81 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
19. KUCHYNSKI Aleksandr 45 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"
20. PEREZ LEZAUN Alan 185 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 4h 37' 09" + 00' 00"

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