Green jersey holder Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was among the last men to make the time cut on a brutally hard stage 9 of the Tour de France in the Alps on Sunday, finishing with three teammates just 1:32 ahead of the 37:20 cut-off point.
Cavendish was the 160th of 165 finishers, 35:49 down on the winner Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën) on a 145km stage which saw the riders tackle five classified climbs - including the 21-kilometre Montée des Tignes – in abject conditions.
The double stage winner came home alongside Michael Mørkøv and Tim Declercq, with teammate Dries Devenyns six seconds up. Cavendish could be seen thanking his teammates for their efforts shortly after finishing.
"This was one stage I was terrified of," Cavendish said after finishing. "I'm emotional I got over it. I'm delighted I'm still on the race… But the worst part is there are many days like this to come. As much as I missed the Tour de France, I didn't think of these mountain stages."
"In the last couple of years, watching the race on TV, I was a bit jealous that Deceuninck-QuickStep always got someone dropped to take care of their sprinter while, in my last participation, I was left to my own devices. Today I could count on Tim and Michael to support me. I'm so humbled and physically broken."
It's not the first time Cavendish has had time cut troubles in the Alps. In 2018, racing for Dimension Data, Cavendish missed the time cut on stage 11 of the Tour, on a stage which featured two of the same climbs as Sunday's stage – the Col du Pré and the Cormet de Roselend.
This time, however, he and his teammates will race on after Monday's rest day, with a possible three sprint stages lying in wait before race hits the Pyrenees. He continues in green with a reduced 38-point lead over Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) after the Australian grabbed points at the day's intermediate sprint.
André Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation), who was also dropped in the Alps in 2018, narrowly made the time cut at 36:28, while a group of four riders scraped home just six seconds above the time cut.
Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka NextHash), Jelle Wallays (Cofidis), Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Team BikeExchange), and Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën) made it by just five seconds, finishing at 37:15 from O'Connor to race on after Monday's rest day.
In contrast to these riders, it was bad news for seven others who started the day in Cluses as they missed the time cut.
Groupama-FDJ sprinter Arnaud Démare was the most notable name to miss out at the end of a gruelling stage, with fellow sprinter Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) also out of the race.
Démare's lead-out man Jacopo Guarnieri joined the 29-year-old in missing the cut, while Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), and Stefan De Bod (Astana-Premier Tech), who crashed on stage 8, are also out of the race.
Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa-Samsic) broke down in tears after crossing the line out of time, while Qhubeka NextHash rider Nicholas Dlamini – the first black South African to ride the Tour – was the last man to cross the line after crashing earlier in the day. He crossed the line one hour and 24 minutes after O'Connor.
The time cut ruling means that 165 men continue in the Tour de France after stage 9, after 177 riders had finished stage 8. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) both left the race on Sunday morning, while Nans Peters (AG2R Citroën), Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix), and Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Soudal) abandoned during the stage.
🤝 An emotional @MarkCavendish after the @deceuninck_qst "Wolfpack" pulls together to finish within the time limit. 🤝 Le "Wolfpack" se mobilise pour finir, ensemble, une étape difficile et rentrer dans les délais !#TDF2021 pic.twitter.com/3vdWv8tj3cJuly 4, 2021
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Daniel Ostanek has been a staff writer at Cyclingnews since August 2019, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later part-time production editor. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.
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