After a turbulent couple of days on the Tour de France, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) declared himself keen to get back to winning ways on the road to Tours on stage 12.
Wednesday’s time trial ought to have been a low-key outing for Cavendish but the Manxman was catapulted back into the headlines when a spectator doused him with urine as he rode past.
In Fougères on Thursday morning, race director Christian Prudhomme made a visit to the Omega Pharma-Quick Step bus to show organiser ASO’s solidarity with Cavendish in the wake of an incident anathema to the spirit of the Tour. When Cavendish himself emerged to speak to the press, he was keen to draw a line under the affair.
“It’s not a nice thing to happen but in cycling you get so close to the spectators,” Cavendish said. “I enjoy that really because there was an incredible amount of British support there and Manx flags. I didn’t know there were that many people on the island. It’s ok, we had an incredible night last night after we had three people in the top ten so in the end it was a nice stage.”
The previous day, Cavendish had been at the centre of controversy in Saint-Malo, when his brush with stage winner Marcel Kittel’s lead-out man Tom Veelers Argos-Shimano caused the Dutchman to crash in the finishing straight.
“I spoke with Tom the other day on the phone and we’ll get back to bike racing today,” Cavendish said. “He’s got an incredible sprinter in Marcel Kittel and it’s going to be a big battle today.”
Asked if the incidents of the previous 48 hours had added fire to his belly, Cavendish pointed out that motivation is never lacking at the Tour. After winning multiple stages in each of the past five Tours, Cavendish will expect to adding to his current tally of one in this year’s race.
“It’s the Tour de France and at the Tour de France you want to win as many stages as possible,” Cavendish said. “Omega Pharma-QuickStep has won two already and we’ll try to make it a third today.”
A rider with a keen appreciation of the history of his sport, Cavendish said that he was particularly keen to take a stage win in Tours, even if the finale will not, of course, be on the famous Avenue de Grammont.
“I’d like to win. It was a hard first week but this is a great week for sprinters. Tours is a famous finish for sprinters because of Paris-Tours. I’ve never won that race but I’d like to win there today.”
In the last bunch finish at Saint-Malo, Omega Pharma-QuickStep was out-flanked by Argos-Shimano and André Greipel’s Lotto Belisol cohort in the finale, but Cavendish is confident that his team has ironed out any creases in their lead-out.
“We’ve got to be a bit more patient in the finish,” he said, as he rolled off to sign on. “We’ve got the strength but we just need to be a bit more patient.”