The stage 11 sprint to Bourg-lès-Valence seemed like another formulaic victory for Mark Cavendish, but the drama leading up to the line left his foes in a rage and led to the expulsion of his main lead-out man, Mark Renshaw.
Renshaw, leading Cavendish into the final few hundred metres of the stage was seen head-butting Garmin-Transitions lead-out man Julian Dean and then squeezing Dean's charge Tyler Farrar into the barriers, impeding his sprint.
The American rider was furious after crossing the line, even though he was able to recover and sprint on to third place. "That wasn't a good sprint from Renshaw; that wasn't normal. Renshaw shouldn't be riding like that. It's so dangerous. I almost crashed," Farrar said.
"He pushes hard but normally he's within the bounds of normal sprinting. Today he wasn't. He was out of line. They don't need to ride like that. Cav is plenty fast enough to win on his own."
Still lacking a Tour stage on his palmares and with few sprint stages left in this year's race, Farrar skirted around saying he was denied a victory. "It's impossible to say what would've happened. But if something like this happens it certainly doesn't help your chances. I felt good and the team rode all day. Jules [Julian Dean] was fantastic. I was really motivated and it's a pity it didn't work," Farrar reacted.
Shaking with emotion after clashing with Renshaw at 70km/h, Dean said, "I was just doing my job and trying to bring Tyler to the front with 500 metres to go. I dropped him off on Cav's wheel and went past Renshaw to try and keep the speed high. When I was coming over Renshaw, he didn't seem to like it too much."
"He shouldn't have done that. It's not appropriate. I didn't make any movement, I was just bringing Tyler to the front. I went past Renshaw and then I felt him leaning on me and hitting me with his head. Then he carried on afterwards and came across on Tyler's line and stopped Tyler from possibly winning the stage. It's very inappropriate behaviour and very dangerous behaviour. If we'd crashed there, it would have caused some guys some serious damage."
Soon after the race it was clear that Renshaw would be punished for his actions and Farrar felt the judges were right in their decision. "I don't know if he did it on purpose but the rules are that you ride a straight line and he almost crashed everyone. ... He lets Cav by and then he tries to crash everybody against the barriers. You want to win but you have to ride a clean sprint, otherwise it's chaos," Farrar said.
After seeing the replay on television, Farrar said, "Watching it in replay, I think Renshaw should be thrown off the race. This is the worst I've seen this year. It's really inappropriate, first against Julian and then he puts me in the fence. I didn't realise what he did to Julian. That's really inappropriate and is a danger to everyone else on the road. It's incredible. First what he does to Julian. Then as soon as Cav passes, he comes over on me on the fence."
Renshaw was later thrown out of the 2010 Tour de France by the race officials for his actions in the sprint.
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