Etixx-QuickStep directeur sportif Brian Holm blamed himself in part for Mark Cavendish losing out in Wednesday’s bunch sprint to Amiens. Cavendish faded to third in the latter part of the sprint as he saw both André Greipel and Peter Sagan storm past him. Cavendish finished just outside the top 10 on the previous day’s pavé stage, and Holm said he believes that had he told the Manxman to hold back and conserve his energy, he may have stood a better chance of defeating his former teammate.
“We should have let Cav drop yesterday,” Holm said after stage 5. “I should have asked him to drop before the cobblestones and ride piano with the last group so he could be fresh for today. He probably had yesterday in the legs a bit. I saw Greipel drop off yesterday and maybe he was more fresh. Unfortunately that’s how it happens.”
Stage 5 marked Greipel’s second victory at this year’s Tour de France - a performance only bettered by his three in 2012 - after taking the win on a windswept stage two. The German, who was with both Holm and Cavendish at HTC, has looked almost unbeatable in the sprint. Holm praised his former charge and also Sagan, who edged himself six seconds closer to the yellow jersey with his second place.
“I was in the car and we just saw the last 50 metres and it looked like Greipel was just the fastest, so big congrats to Greipel and Lotto,” Holm said. “He’s a good cyclist and a good kid, so I can’t really be depressed about Greipel winning. He’s a good lad. Sagan I think also got more seconds on Tony. I think he deserves a win sooner or later. He’s pulling and riding and climbing and he’s always second. He’s a fantastic cyclist.”
The opportunities for sprints are dwindling for the Manxman, but Holm is confident that he can deliver the goods before the final stage. “The day after tomorrow we have a fair chance. We will try again tomorrow. Cav, he had a good final yesterday, he could have won yesterday also. Today he was just beaten by Greipel who was stronger,” Holm said.
“When we saw yesterday everybody getting dropped he was in the first group of 30 and he was good in the wind. I think his form is alright. Maybe he was a bit tired from yesterday. I can’t say, but if someone wants to bet, I will bet that he will win a stage before Paris.”
There must be a sense of worry in the Cavendish camp, with two bunch sprints down and nothing to show for it. It’s rare that he's been so convincingly beaten by Greipel, but Holm doesn’t think that this second defeat at the hands of the German will knock his confidence. “To be honest, I think he cares who wins the sprint, Kristoff, Greipel, Sagan or Wout Poels, a win is a win,” Holm said.
“I think he can deal with the pressure. That’s his job and that’s what he gets paid for… It’s part of your life as a cyclist. When you’re a superstar there is a certain pressure that is on you.”