On Wednesday the second pure bunch sprint in the Tour de France didn't go as smoothly as the first one in Tournai on Monday. At 2.5km to go, many riders crashed as the sprint was getting underway, including world champion Mark Cavendish (Sky), who was unable to add a second stage win to his tally. The man who was right behind him in the sprint build-up was Kenny Van Hummel. The Dutchman was more or less relegated by the world champion during Tuesday's intermediate sprint and 'Hummeltje' was keen to show the world what he was capable of.
The Dutchman's best result ever in the Tour de France is a seventh place in 2009: not quite the same palmarès as Cavendish but Van Hummel aimed for more. "That was fun then but much more is possible this year," Van Hummel said. "I'm eager to show what I can do... it's a burning desire really."
The intermediate sprint incident turned the spots to the low-profile sprinter who was trying to grab points for the green jersey from Cavendish. In the build-up to the sprint Cavendish must've felt hindered by the Dutchman and when coming to the line he came level with him – seemingly with no effort – while looking sideways several times at how hard Hummeltje was trying.
"During today's race Johnny [Hoogerland] asked him what was going on in that sprint. Straight away he came over to me and apologized which meant he realized he was wrong. He said: 'Kenny, sorry, I've got nothing against you and didn't mean it like that'. It looked worse on TV than it was in reality. I told him, 'it looked stupid on television but apologies accepted'. It's part of his character of course. I don't get intimidate by that. It only makes me stronger. Actually I had to laugh with it," Van Hummel said.
When asked why he participated in the intermediate sprint Van Hummel said he believed in his chances for a good overall placing in the competition. "I feel really good and you never know because with one or two wins you're quickly well positioned and if the others crash... well, now I can forget it. Anyway, it's good to take part in them to activate those sprinting legs and monitor the competition. I'm not going flat out because at the finish my sprint has to be at 100 per cent, nobody goes flat out there but it's important to join in and take some points. Now I can forget about it since I wasn't able to sprint along."
A few hours after the apologies from Cavendish the peloton was approaching the finish in Rouen. The Vacansoleil-DCM rider was keen on teaching Cavendish a lesson. "I was really on fire," Van Hummel said. "I was on the wheel of Mark Cavendish. He's the man in the sprint," Van Hummel said. Little later that king of the sprint crashed, taking along several other sprinters with him but not Van Hummel. "I was right behind him with Renshaw. I was able to get around it but Renshaw didn't. It was a nasty crash," Van Hummel said. "If a crash takes you out then that's part of the sprint. I have to thank the angel on my shoulder that I can make it to the finish with all of my skin still sticking on my body."
Van Hummel was a close witness to the crash and he describes what happened. "Cavendish was there with Eisel. He tangled with someone. At that moment he had to go fully into the brakes. His bike went sideways and that made him crash. I had to hit the brakes as well but managed to get around it that way. Behind me they were crashing into them as well."
The Dutchman laments another missed opportunity to show off his capabilities. During the first bunch sprint he finished fourteenth and blamed the now abandoned Maarten Tjallingii, who was leading out Mark Renshaw, for hindering him. "Today I had Boeckmans and Marcato still there with me and with two cards to play with you think that you can well be launched in that last kilometre and that is what it is about," Van Hummel said. "I'm having fun in this Tour de France but it would be even more fun if I would be there in the bunch sprints."
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