Mark Cavendish and his oddly bouncy skeleton
The people of Yorkshire followed the script, lining the route like yellow human fencing. Jens Voight followed the script, getting into the day’s break, despite being 42 and there being little chance of success. He’s not unduly troubled by petty concerns like that. The peloton followed the script, racing into the finish in Harrogate at ever-increasing speed for a sprint finish. But then it all went wrong.
Mark Cavendish was supposed to win. He’s been Britain’s strongest representative in the Tour in recent years, winning stages every year since 2008. This was his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take the yellow jersey on home roads. And he crashed.
In truth, he was pretty much out of the running even before he went down. His Omega Pharma-Quick Step team had appeared to be doing a good job approaching the finish, but in the last few hundred metres it all went tits up. Suddenly he was on his own, too far back to realistically challenge for the win and when he tried to get through a gap, he found Australia’s Simon Gerrans in his way. Leaning against Gerrans, expecting him to move, Cavendish lost control and hit the deck, driving his shoulder into the floor as if he were attempting to rugby tackle planet Earth.
Planet Earth didn’t budge
Fortunately, Cavendish is a freak. Most cyclists can break their collarbone leaning against a worktop and this looked for all the world like a collarbone-breaking fall. But apparently not. Cavendish simply doesn’t do broken bones. Time and again he falls, but it just never happens. The diagnosis is that he’s separated his shoulder. This isn’t something you’d ever want to do, but it’s not a break and there’s an outside chance he might be on the start line tomorrow.
That would demand being mad as pies and hard as nails, but when in Yorkshire, eh?
Update: Cavendish has been forced to abandon.
So who won?
Marcel Kittel. Big, bounding, giant-haired teuton, Marcel Kittel. His Giant-Shimano team seemed to time their surge better. They were pretty anonymous over the last 10km but then speared forwards right at the business end of the race, plonking Kittel down in prime position so that he was ahead of the Cav-induced carnage and only had to outsprint Peter Sagan, Ramunas Navardauskas and Bryan Coquard.
It wasn’t easy though. Kittel had a few problems navigating the massive crowds.
“I thought a few times we were going to crash. The crowd takes photos, moves back and leaves grandma in the road.”
Anything else of note?
By far the weirdest thing to happen was Chris Froome coming sixth. Froome must be a realistic contender for worst sprinter in the peloton, but he can maintain a high speed in the run-in and so presumably just carried on like that.
Marcel Kittel takes yellow. And also green. While Jens Voight gets to wear the rather fetching polka dot jersey because he now leads the mountains classification after spending most of the day on his own, way out ahead of everyone. Here’s a cracking interview with Jens. “What the heck was I thinking?”
I did a proper preview of stage two earlier in the year. Take a look. It’s an absolute beast and could deliver some really entertaining racing. The main general classification contenders usually spend the whole of the first week finishing anonymously in the bunch, but this terrain should force them to the fore. Do your jobs, you layabouts! Race! Race!