Mark Cavendish has questioned Team BikeExchange’s tactics at the Tour de France, suggesting they should have focused on challenging him at the end of the stage rather than trying to put him in difficulty part-way through it.
Cavendish picked up his third victory of this Tour in Valence on stage 10 after a picture-perfect lead-out from his Deceuninck-QuickStep team.
The 190km route was largely flat but did contain some climbs, where Michael Matthews’ BikeExchange teammates hit the front of the peloton to pile on the pressure. An early category 4 climb was followed by another incline to the intermediate sprint at kilometre-82, where BikeExchange hit the front to tee up Matthews, with Cavendish not among the points.
There was another uncategorised climb in the final 40km, where BikeExchange reappeared on the front to raise the tempo, presumably in a bid to try and drain the legs of Cavendish, who’s weaker than Matthews uphill but faster in a flat finish.
“We knew they'd do that. When I go for the green jersey, I go for stages and hopefully the green comes from that. I always try to pick up points but I'm not going to put myself over the limit to do it. But they'll do it,” Cavendish said.
“Honestly - they've got to try something, it's bike racing - but I feel like they've burned their matches doing that. Michael just had one guy trying to help him in the final when he could have had the whole team to match ours.
“They went with that tactic, trying to drop me. But the team stayed around me and got me over it. I just needed to get over that climb and I knew I'd be safe for the sprint.”
The comments come a day after Cavendish made similar comments towards the Australian team in the context of the mountain stages like Sunday’s, where Cavendish made the time cut by the skin of his teeth.
The time limit is calculated as a percentage of the winner’s time and pure sprinters like Cavendish often spend the more gruelling stages at the back, fighting to stay in the race.
Speaking to ITV, Cavendish was told that another green jersey hopeful, Sonny Colbrelli, had said his Bahrain Victorious team wouldn’t ride to try and put Cavendish out of the time limit, but that he’d heard BikeExchange would.
“They’ll always do that. It won’t be Bling [Matthews] doing that; it’ll be BikeExchange, but they do stuff like that don’t they?
“It’s better to concentrate on winning than making other people lose, but they’ve kind of done that for many many years. What can I do?”
After seeing his lead in the green jersey points classification reduced by Matthews and Colbrelli in the Alps, his third stage victory on Tuesday bolstered his position at the top of the standings. He now sits on 218 points, with Matthews on 159 and Colbrelli on 136.
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