Mark Cavendish’s Dimension Data directeur sportif Roger Hammond has been taking video footage of the sprinter on some of the climbs at this year’s Tour de France. Hammond hopes that, by capturing the footage, he can combat any accusations that Cavendish has been holding onto cars to help him make it through the mountains.
Hammond has not been filming Cavendish on all climbs but only on some select ascents as he drives behind the Manxman. He explained that the videos are just a precaution but that he will use the videos as evidence should any accusations emerge.
“The thing for us is not to film to show people; it’s about filming so that if someone wants to write a story then we have the evidence,” Hammond said in Berne after the finish of stage 16.
“We don’t want to bring any disrepute to the Tour. People always talk about it, and I don’t understand how people can get away with it personally. I just felt, from a personal point of view, we want to protect the image of the Tour and we want to protect Mark’s image. It’s easy to throw around insinuations or suggestions, but it’s not fair on the race, and it’s not fair on us.”
Riders are forbidden from holding onto the car, and Vincenzo Nibali was expelled from last year’s Vuelta a Espana for doing so at high speed following a crash on stage 2. In 2011, Cavendish was subject to accusations that he had held onto a car during a stage the Giro d’Italia. Speculation arose again earlier this week in the French press with some unnamed riders and team personnel questioning how he had been getting over climbs at Tour de France, although there have been no formal accusations.
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“For me, it’s a deterrent. We don’t want this; we don’t want it. So when people ask about whether he is doing it, then we are making sure that it is a non-story. It’s not about naming and shaming or whatever. It’s about, let’s not make this a story,” said Hammond. “I hate the fact that we have to talk about it. It’s an absolute non-story, and that’s all we’re trying to do is to protect the image of the sport and to protect Mark’s image so if anyone wants to make a big deal of it, then they’re only going to make themselves look like a fool.”
Cavendish has had an incredibly successful Tour de France, winning four stages so far and a day-long stint in the yellow jersey. The Manxman has made it home in the gruppetto in all of the mountain stages so far but suffered particularly in the heat of the Pyrenees. Hammond said that he had no worries about Cavendish’s climbing, and the team had worked hard to make sure he had the support he needed to make it through.
“It still comes back to this story, we’ve still had to put resources behind him in the mountains to help get him through,” explained Hammond. “I know what I’d rather take, four stage wins and struggle a bit in the mountains than be happily in the gruppetto and win none. I don’t think it is in any way a strategy defect; it’s just the way it is. It’s part of the job of the team is to work what the strengths are and equally as much part the weaknesses and work through those weaknesses.”