HTC-Highroad pocket rocket on sparky form on road and off it
Anyone who thought Mark Cavendish wasn't the man or rider he used to be would have quickly revised that opinion after the Manxman's post-race press conference following his Tour de France stage victory in Cap-Fréhel on Wednesday night.
Sharp, incisive, and ever ready with a blistering comeback, if Cavendish was back to his best on the bike, the same applied in the press-room.
"Get your facts right," he told one reporter who had misheard José Joaquin Rojas accuse Alessandro Petacchi of punching then insulting him on French TV. "Rojas said Petacchi," Cavendish snapped. "Before you go trying to start shit, get your story right."
There was more feistiness, humour and also the self-deprecation which is another Cavendish trademark. Asked to elaborate on an earlier remark that "my problems are in my head", the HTC-Highroad star stifled a giggle. "If I start talking about that, we'll never get out of here tonight," he grinned.
His analysis of what was his sixteenth Tour de France stage win in his fifth Grande Boucle was, as ever, detailed and clinical.
"This is up there with my stage win in Aubenas in 2009 as one of my best, but it was all the more difficult because we didn't anticipate it being so hard," Cavendish explained. "The finish was really hard. The climb with three kilometres to go was steep and I had to go massively into the red.
"I was just so lucky I had the guys keeping me fresh – five or six guys keeping me protected and out of the wind all day," he continued, adding more evidence to his argument that the race jury hasn't applied the rules regarding legal sprinting equally. Cavendish was relegated on stage 3's intermediate sprint a pushing match with Thor Hushovd.
"Towards the finish, with two kilometres to go, Greipel turned left into me; if it's a small bloke I can use my elbow but with someone as big as him you can only use your head, which isn't an option.
"Anyway, that rocked me back but it also gave me a bit of a run-up to the finish…Geraint [Thomas] went with 600 metres to go and I got on his wheel, thinking I'd just try to pick up a few points for the green jersey. Then I got to 200 and suddenly I was on Gilbert's wheel. I was surprised to be there, looking around and seeing the other riders going for it, but I just kept on going. Normally I like to win by just a little margin but today I had to give everything. I think it'll take me a couple of days to recover from that."
Whether Cavendish can recover from the mishaps which have so far blighted his green jersey campaign remains to be seen. Asked if more argy-bargy in today's intermediate sprint (where he claimed five points) had fired him up for the stage finish, Cavendish resisted the temptation to dwell on his ten-point penalty for clashing with Hushovd on Monday.
Well, almost. "I just ask for consistency, and for it not to get personal," was his terse remark.
Until today, the start of this year's Tour had not been a happy one from Cavendish, and his woes were compounded yesterday by the death of his pet golden retriever Amber. The HTC-Highroad sprinter ended his press conference by requesting that his victory be dedicated to the dog.
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