After winning three of the four flat sprint stages in the first week of this year's Tour de France, Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) had been favourite to add another to his palmares in Montpellier. There was little Cavendish could do but watch the peloton go up the road during stage 11 after a mechanical problem left him unable to change gears.
"Yeah, shit happens I guess. At least I didn't get beaten; that's the positive that I can take from it," said Cavendish when he arrived at his team bus, after finishing almost four minutes down on the stage winner Peter Sagan. "The group went, we went to the front, Bernie went straight up and I was moving up and with gears and cross winds it's just a bit choppy, and I hit my rear mech on someone's wheel. I don't know if it was my fault or if it was theirs, it's irrelevant really.
"My rear mech stopped working. I don't know if the electronic thing came out, or I broke the springs or something, but it wouldn't go lower than 15. You can't even keep up at 70k an hour like that. Obviously, with the bunch in pieces, there was no car behind to change my bike. That was it."
The stage was marked by crosswinds throughout and in the latter kilometres many GC contenders found themselves in trouble. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) lost out due to Froome's attack and after the stage he and his team manager Eusebio Unzue criticised the stage, calling it dangerous. In contrast, Cavendish said that he hadn't noticed the impact the wind was having until he moved back through the peloton for a short break.
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"Where I was it didn't really split up," he said. “I thought that we were in quite a big bunch, I didn't realise that it was splitting up so much behind. At one point, I thought that I would have a breather, and I went a few lines back, and I was already at the back. I thought, Christ it is pretty windy."
Cavendish's mechanical problem occurred soon after Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) had gone on the attack. Their small group of four had 25 seconds at the time and would make it to the line, despite a fervent chase from the sprinters' teams. Cavendish still believed that he was in with a chance had he not suffered his mechanical problems.
"They weren't that far ahead when that happened. When it happened to me, Bernie and Edvald stopped pulling," said Cavendish. He added that he had not been surprised by Froome's decision to attack.
"He's ridden quite an aggressive Tour actually. Fair play, like. It's quite good for the race to see the yellow jersey and the green jersey go up the road like that."