Tour de France update: Cancellara wears yellow, Cavendish wears tarmac, Sagan wears green
Prologue specialist and favourite, Fabian Cancellara (Radio Shack-Nissan) repeated his 2004 victory over an almost identical loop in Liège. The Swiss time trial champion completed the 6.4km course, which was 295 metres longer than that of eight years previously, in a time of 7’13”, clocking up an average speed of 53.1kph, taking the first maillot jaune of the 2012 TDF.
Cancellara was the quickest rider at the halfway stage, flying past the 3.5km checkpoint on the Quai de la Goffe, a second faster than Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), reaching the line an impressive seven seconds quicker than overall race favourite, Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky). Wiggo is sailing in unchartered waters this year; not only is he is not used to favouritism in a race of this magnitude, the scruffy haired Brit also has the hopes of Great British public on his shoulders.
Q: Is this pressure going to prove too much to handle for Wiggo?
His certain failure in the mountains will settle the debate once and for all.
In his first Tour de France, Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) cruised to a simple sprint victory at the end of the first stage, crossing the 198km between Liège and Seraing ahead of his rivals. The 22-year-old Slovakian champion took advantage of Fabian Cancellara’s attack in the final kilometre; he was all over the Swiss powerhouse’s wheel and as Fab raced to gain time on potential GC contenders, the young Slovakian conserved his energy, flicked the gears and easily overtook Cancellara to take the stage in a stylish fashion.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky), raced hard to catch the leading duo with just under a kilometre to go, to take third place.
Bradley Wiggins remained second in the overall standings; negotiating the final ramp in reasonable fashion to finish on the same time as the defending champion, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
The incredible force that is Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) proved he can blitz a stage without even having a dedicated lead out train, as the British rider took the the second stage of the 2012 Tour de France.
The current World champion, whose Sky team has decided to focus on winning the race overall with Bradley Wiggins, was left with no alternative but to follow the wheels of his rivals in the final kilometres, eventually flying past them to take the win.
The Lotto-Belisol team controlled the final kilometres of the 207.5km stage around the boring flat areas of western Belgium, throwing André Greipel into the finish. Cavendish wasn’t having any of it as he managed to fight his way to wheel of his former teammate; sitting pretty for a few hundred yards, he cranked up his pedals and powered past to take the stage by just over half a wheel.
Matt Goss (Orica-Green Edge), another former teammate of Cavendish was third, just behind the two big guns.
Stage 3 was again a day for the Slovakian, Peter Sagan, as the refreshingly arrogant youngster danced across the line, taking his second win in only his third stage 3 to Boulogne-sur-Mer. The Slovakian champion and green jersey holder unleashed a powerful turn of foot in the final hundred meters, leaving Edvald Boasson Hagen and Peter Velits to pick up the podium places.
Mark Cavendish was denied the chance of a second stage win in this year’s Tour de France when he hit the tarmac 2.6km from the finish. The German “gorilla” André Greipel won the 214.5km stage in a sprint finish from Abbeville to Rouen. Despite being shaken by his fall, Cavendish was able to get back on his bike and hobble over the line.
Imagine travelling down a packed London Underground staircase during the 5pm rat race; now imagine doing that at 75kph, with the concrete stairs are bubbling away at 40 degrees!
Trying to replicate the fear of a bunch sprint is very difficult, but the aforementioned analogy should give you a fair idea what the riders face when it gets to the business end of a stage.
World champion Mark Cavendish crashed 2.5km from the finish; suffering a finger injury, road rash, a ripped jersey and a crushed helmet. The superlight carbon helmet was smashed to pieces, but thankfully for all concerned, it almost certainly saved his life.
Team Sky suffered the loss of Kanstantsin Siutsoun, breaking his leg on Tuesday. The unfortunate loss leaves Bradley Wiggins with only seven team members, reducing his chance of overall glory.
Cavendish will soldier on after the crash, but the reason this year has been littered with crashes boils down to the teams themselves. All teams competing for podium places seem to be all over the road when the riders hit full speed, ignoring the organised lead-out trains of previous years. This is a clear tactic attempting to thwart the supreme power of Cavendish, and it worked on stage 4.
Cavendish became the sprint king while riding for the HTC Highroad team where his train of riders would protect him from troublesome riders; leading him towards the front of the bunch in one piece, allowing the powerhouse to take stage after stage. It is a different story with Team Sky, the Manx Missile has to fight for himself.
Team Sky director Sean Yates told reporters:
“He’s fine. Nothing broken, just cuts and bruises virtually all over which you would expect after hitting the ground at 70kph,”
Team Sky are seriously worried that Wiggins will get caught up in the mayhem; much like he did when he crashed out in 2011 and the dream of a first Briton to win the Tour will be over for another year.