For the second time in two days the Tour de France race jury has docked green jersey competitors 20 points for finishing outside the time limit – but despite the action Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) retains a 15-point lead before the final showdown on the Champs-Élysées.
Speaking after the fast and furious stage 19 to l’Alpe d’Huez, Cavendish said that the top of the day’s first climb to the Col du Télégraphe was his finish line, where he hoped a strong unit would to make their way to the finish.
“I’m really happy with today,” Cavendish said after crossing the line looking as exhausted as the GC riders. “I was pretty nervous about it – and yesterday as well. The time limit was only 25 minutes for today and I treated the top of the Col du Télégraphe as my finish line. I thought I had to get there as best I could and I went over the Télégraphe with Thor Hushovd and Joaquin Rojas – the guys for the green jersey – and that that was important.
“Things calmed down and we rode up and down the Galibier and then we just gave it everything on Alpe d’Huez.”
Despite race commissaires extending the time limit to the maximum 13 per cent of the winner’s time, the high pace meant that the 82-strong gruppetto was still technically outside the time limit by less than 30 seconds. But despite the 20-point penalty, because Rojas and Cavendish finished in the same group, they maintained their relative positions.
On Thursday’s stage finish atop the Galibier however, Cavendish, along with 88 other riders missed the time limit by 2:30. The race jury docked 20 points from riders in the green jersey competition, which trimmed Cavendish’s lead over Rojas to 15 points, as the Spaniard finished within the cut-off.
Third in the green jersey competition, Philippe Gilbert made the time cut on Friday, but it remains possible but unlikely for him to win the maillot vert as he has a deficit of 50 points.
And with the mountains behind him, the Manx sprinter is turning his attention to winning on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday and taking the green jersey permanently. “It will be the most incredible thing to happen to me,” said Cavendish, who has won four stages already in this Tour.
However, Cavendish remains cautious: “It’s not certain yet, we’re not in Paris yet. There’s still two days of racing to go.”