Wind and Stress Delivers Fighter Cavendish in Stage 15

Mark Cavendish having sweat wiped from his face after Stage 15 finish in Montpellier, (C) Benepe

Montpellier, France–

As the tour headed towards the Mediterranean, The mostly flat 193 km stage from Limoux to this university town in the South of France offered nothing in terms of assurances.

Below a sky of velvet textured clouds interspersed by sprinkling rain, all of Montpellier waited for the riders in anticipation because though the course favored a break, or a catch-up mass sprint, the way things have been going lately, flipping a coin might have been a better predictor of the finish line winner.

Cavendish riding to interviews (C) Benepe

Though unpredictability had become the touch word of the 2011 tour, predictability has also been it’s flip side, and today Cavendish delivered the latter.

But he said the effort was very, very tiring.

“You can’t rest on your laurels,” he said after he finished the course. Under the winner’s tent, his handler wiped the sweat off his face, almost as if he were a child.

But Cavendish also acknowledged that it was an extremely difficult day because he found himself fighting with the other riders for position the entire stage. “Psychologically and physically,” he said the day was exhausting.

Many other teams had looked to put their sprinters into the winning place, but the HTC Highroads team brought back an early breakaway and managed to overcome the last remaining riders in the final kilometers.

The crowd cheering stage 15, Montpellier (C) Benepe

Cavendish delivered to the finish line, with Tyler Farrar of Garmin Cervelo close behind, and Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre third.

Cavendish alighted onto the scene gloriously in the luminous green of his sprinter’s jersey, a broad smile spreading across his face as he raised his arms in the air.

The top seven placements of the overall classification stayed the same since yesterday, with Thomas Voeckler in the Yellow Jersey, followed by Frank Schleck and Cadel Evans. Alberto Contador was still in 7th position.

But after the stage Thomas Voeckler said that he did not expect to stay in the Maillot Jaune to Paris. He said his legs and the legs of his teammates were only so good, especially in the Alp stages to come. He said he would try his best, “But when I saw the guys who were just behind me in the overall classification, when I saw the different stages that are yet to come – I don’t know how I could keep on to the lead.”

On whether he might keep the Green Jersey into Paris, Cavendish was not sure, noting that in 2010 the jersey was retaken by Thor Hushovd. “We’ll keep trying and get as many points in the bank as possible and see what happens on the Champs-Elysées,” he said.

No further mention was made of the accusations by other riders in the peloton that Cavendish had held onto the back of his team car to make the time cut on the mountain stages. That notion was dispelled with vehemence yesterday by his directeur sportif.

Play by Play

It was not always clear that Cavendish would win this stage it could have been Greipel or any one almost: another sprinter, a breakaway rider perhaps? A Frenchman?

Indeed it looked like today would provide another opportunity for  the French to prove themselves, and an early break was formed with Delage as the initiator.

Tyler Farrar and Alessandro Petacchi can’t best Cavendish (C) Benepe

Along with him were Tepstra (QST), Dumoulin (COF), Ignatiev (KAT) and Delapace (SAU).

At 80 km into the race, the break was 4 minutes and 15 seconds ahead of the peloton.

But behind them the HTC Highroads had begun to organize. A difficult head wind made it tough for them to achieve some of the higher paces they clocked earlier in this Tour, but they started to gain on the break ahead.

This perhaps was the tough team work Cavendish referred to at the end of the stage.

Waiting for the HTC train in Montpellier

When the pack arrived at the feed zone in Cessenon-sur-Orb at the 102.5km mark, the gap had narrowed to 2 minutes and 50 seconds.

That gap soon narrowed even more to one minute and 5 seconds. The stage was beginning to wear that predictable coat once again, and offered the threat of a sprint finish by the big teams.

The three Frenchmen who were in the lead group since the first kilometer, Delage, Delaplace and Dumoulin, were caught by the peloton at 16 km to the finish.

Then Garmin-Cervelo got organized at the front of the peloton. Tosatto of the SaxoBank Team was up front as well, looking to keep teammate Alberto Contador out of trouble, but HTC was in charge.

Ignatiev (KAT) and Terpstra (QST) were then the only riders left in the lead, but they too were eventually caught.

At 3 km to go, Philippe Gilbert attacked the peloton and caught Terpstra: on his wheel was Francais des Jeux rider, Anthony Roux, followed by Marcato who had also joined the lead of the stage.

With 1,800 m to go, the escape by Gilbert was overtaken: Hondo came to the front of the peloton and the Sky team moved forward, just to the right of the HTC train.

But Mark Renshaw delivered Mark Cavendish to the 300 meter mark, and he sprinted past his competitors to the finish. This was his fourth stage win this year, and his 19th Tour de France stage win.

For the overall classification, it was practically anyone’s guess if Thomas Voeckler could hold the Yellow Jersey on every stage since he first put it on, but he’s proven the critics wrong, and kept the Maillot Jaune today.

Up to now the Frenchman had broken so many preconceptions, that his directeur sportif was telling the press that there was a good chance he could stay in first place to Paris. But that notion was dispelled by the Frenchman himself at a press conference.

This has certainly been the Tour best characterized as “the one without Lance.” No one rider appears to be stronger than the rest, with the exception perhaps of the current Yellow Jersey holder Thomas Voeckler, and the lone ranger Cadel Evans in third place. They could soon be displaced in the Alps.

But so far, the little pas de deux on the mountain between Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck have resulted in neither one being able to distinguish themselves as a winner. They’ll have the chance over the next couple of stages in the Alps to do that, and perhaps by the Tour reaches Grenoble, we will know who our best rider really is.

OVERALL STANDINGS AT THE END OF STAGE 15: Source: ASO

1. VOECKLER Thomas 181 TEAM EUROPCAR 65h 24′ 34″
2. SCHLECK Frank 18 TEAM LEOPARD-TREK 65h 26′ 23″ + 01′ 49″
3. EVANS Cadel 141 BMC RACING TEAM 65h 26′ 40″ + 02′ 06″
4. SCHLECK Andy 11 TEAM LEOPARD-TREK 65h 26′ 49″ + 02′ 15″
5. BASSO Ivan 91 LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 65h 27′ 50″ + 03′ 16″
6. SANCHEZ Samuel 21 EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI 65h 28′ 18″ + 03′ 44″
7. CONTADOR Alberto 1 SAXO BANK SUNGARD 65h 28′ 34″ + 04′ 00″
8. CUNEGO Damiano 161 LAMPRE – ISD 65h 28′ 35″ + 04′ 01″
9. DANIELSON Tom 52 TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO 65h 30′ 20″ + 05′ 46″
10. DE WEERT Kevin 124 QUICK STEP CYCLING TEAM 65h 30′ 52″ + 06′ 18″
11. URAN Rigoberto 118 SKY PROCYCLING 65h 32′ 29″ + 07′ 55″
12. PERAUD Jean-Christophe 108 AG2R LA MONDIALE 65h 32′ 54″ + 08′ 20″
13. TAARAMAE Rein 151 COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 65h 33′ 36″ + 09′ 02″
14. ROLLAND Pierre 188 TEAM EUROPCAR 65h 33′ 54″ + 09′ 20″
15. ZUBELDIA Haimar 79 TEAM RADIOSHACK 65h 34′ 24″ + 09′ 50″
16. VELITS Peter 179 HTC – HIGHROAD 65h 34′ 35″ + 10′ 01″
17. JEANNESSON Arnold 134 FDJ 65h 34′ 39″ + 10′ 05″
18. ROCHE Nicolas 101 AG2R LA MONDIALE 65h 35′ 30″ + 10′ 56″
19. CASAR Sandy 131 FDJ 65h 36′ 28″ + 11′ 54″
20. VANENDERT Jelle 38 OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO 65h 36′ 40″ + 12′ 06″
21. RUIJGH Rob 208 VACANSOLEIL-DCM 65h 37′ 30″ + 12′ 56″
22. COPPEL Jérôme 211 SAUR-SOJASUN 65h 37′ 37″ + 13′ 03″
23. KARPETS Vladimir 191 KATUSHA TEAM 65h 39′ 45″ + 15′ 11″
24. TROFIMOV Yury 199 KATUSHA TEAM 65h 41′ 17″ + 16′ 43″
25. LEIPHEIMER Levi 75 TEAM RADIOSHACK 65h 41′ 22″ + 16′ 48″
26. VERDUGO Gorka 29 EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI 65h 41′ 28″ + 16′ 54″
27. GUSEV Vladimir 194 KATUSHA TEAM 65h 44′ 15″ + 19′ 41″
28. GILBERT Philippe 32 OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO 65h 45′ 24″ + 20′ 50″
29. VANDE VELDE Christian 58 TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO 65h 45′ 40″ + 21′ 06″
30. MONFORT Maxime 15 TEAM LEOPARD-TREK 65h 46′ 14″ + 21′ 40″
31. MONCOUTIE David 157 COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 65h 46′ 31″ + 21′ 57″
32. HESJEDAL Ryder 55 TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO 65h 49′ 52″ + 25′ 18″
33. BARREDO Carlos 42 RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM 65h 50′ 59″ + 26′ 25″
34. GAUTIER Cyril 183 TEAM EUROPCAR 65h 51′ 11″ + 26′ 37″
35. DUPONT Hubert 103 AG2R LA MONDIALE 65h 52′ 54″ + 28′ 20″
36. MARTIN Tony 175 HTC – HIGHROAD 65h 53′ 08″ + 28′ 34″

STAGE STANDINGS AT THE END OF STAGE 15: Source ASO

1. CAVENDISH Mark 171 HTC – HIGHROAD 4h 20′ 24″
2. FARRAR Tyler 54 TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
3. PETACCHI Alessandro 169 LAMPRE – ISD 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
4. OSS Daniel 95 LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
5. ROJAS Jose Joaquin 88 MOVISTAR TEAM 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
6. SWIFT Ben 116 SKY PROCYCLING 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
7. CIOLEK Gerald 123 QUICK STEP CYCLING TEAM 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
8. GALLOPIN Tony 156 COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
9. VENTOSO Francisco 89 MOVISTAR TEAM 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
10. HINAULT Sébastien 105 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
11. ENGOULVENT Jimmy 214 SAUR-SOJASUN 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
12. DUQUE Leonardo 154 COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
13. GREIPEL André 33 OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
14. BOZIC Borut 202 VACANSOLEIL-DCM 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
15. VAITKUS Tomas 68 PRO TEAM ASTANA 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
16. COYOT Arnaud 212 SAUR-SOJASUN 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
17. JEANNESSON Arnold 134 FDJ 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
18. DEAN Julian 53 TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
19. SABATINI Fabio 97 LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
20. ROCHE Nicolas 101 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
21. RUIJGH Rob 208 VACANSOLEIL-DCM 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
22. HUSHOVD Thor 51 TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
23. HIVERT Jonathan 216 SAUR-SOJASUN 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
24. PEREZ MORENO Ruben 25 EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
25. RENSHAW Mark 177 HTC – HIGHROAD 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
26. TAARAMAE Rein 151 COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
27. TJALLINGII Maarten 49 RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
28. GILBERT Philippe 32 OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
29. EVANS Cadel 141 BMC RACING TEAM 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
30. FOFONOV Dmitriy 63 PRO TEAM ASTANA 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
31. ROUX Anthony 137 FDJ 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
32. DE WEERT Kevin 124 QUICK STEP CYCLING TEAM 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
33. O’GRADY Stuart 16 TEAM LEOPARD-TREK 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
34. SCHLECK Frank 18 TEAM LEOPARD-TREK 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
35. TURGOT Sébastien 189 TEAM EUROPCAR 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
36. VELITS Peter 179 HTC – HIGHROAD 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″
37. PERAUD Jean-Christophe 108 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 20′ 24″ + 00′ 00″

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