Mark Cavendish (Columbia) responded to accusations that he didn't like France or the French by winning his fourth stage in this year's Tour de France and taking back the green jersey.
French sports newspaper L'Equipe ran a short story quoting an unnamed French rider accusing Cavendish of being a racist and of cursing and swearing about France during Monday's rest day.
Cavendish let his legs do the talking during the sprint on Wednesday and then was equally devastating speaking to the media afterwards.
“Someone showed me the article this morning and I had to laugh,” Cavendish said.
“It's a small article by an anonymous writer and with comments from an anonymous rider. I've got to take it as a compliment if they've got nothing else to write about. They can't criticise my cycling, so they start this shit.”
“For sure, I'm going to upset some people because I'm an arsehole, but it isn't relevant what nationality they are or were they come from. But I didn't say it and I hope the person who wrote it and said it feels guilty. I'm just going to brush it off.”
“I made an effort to learn a bit of French in the winter. I can't talk in French yet but but I'm able to listen to questions in French and answer in English. I love this country and I love this race.”
French radio then asked him to say a few words in French and he replied: “J'aime la France, j'aime le Tour et j'aime les Français.”
FRENCH STILL LOVE CAV
Despite what L'Equipe may write, the French public love Cavendish's sprinting not least because of the way he and his Columbia team mates rode a perfect finale on the long straight run in to Saint-Fargeau and then on the rise to he finish.
Some of his rivals thought Cavendish would struggle on the gentle climb, but he chose the right gear, was dropped off at the right moment by Mark Renshaw, and then sprinted to the line.
Tyler Farrar (Garmin) was second and Yauheni Hutarovich (Francaise des Jeux) was third, but Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) faded to fifth. Cavendish now leads Hushovd by seven points in the green jersey competition.
"It was going to be hard for us, and we had to adopt to a different situation and leave it later because it was an uphill sprint. They delivered me at 150 metres to go instead of 250 metres to go. The guys did that perfectly. It meant having four guys in the last kilometre, we did that and I was able to use a smaller gear and get the jump and finish it off. I'm really, really happy.”
"It really is a case that we know what we have to do and then we do it. If you look at the overhead shots from yesterday's sprint it looked like a fruit salad then there is one line of colour which is the spoon. We all ride in one line because we know we have to stay together."
"Kim Kirchen is a GC rider, Bert Grabsch is world TT champion and so was Rogers. But they all know that if we commit 100% we have the best chance of coming out victorious. Nothing's better than a win. You can talk all you like at the dinner table but success is the biggest motivation. We all know that if we do our job 100% right we'll come out on top. It's a cliche to say it but it's all for one and one for all.”
Cavendish equalled Barry Hoban's British record of eight stage wins at the Tour de France and also had some strong words for him.
“He's a nice guy and we've talked a lot at different dinners in winter. He's given me advice but also said something in the press that I didn't really like. He offended me a bit but it's nice to be able to be spoken about in the same sentence as one of the great British professionals of all time.”
BACK IN GREEN
Cavendish seems to have found extra strength now he is back in green.
The Tour is at the half-way point but he's still strong and confident he can get to Paris and win the sprint on the Champs Elysees, perhaps even in the green jersey.
“I've raced 11 days so I'm going to feel a bit tired but I'm just like all the other guys,” he said.
“There's still l0 days to go and I'm going to race for 10 days. I've got a good team that looks after me and keeps me out of danger and helps me stay as relaxed and as fresh as possible.”
“I'm still not going to change my game plan. But I hope to sprint in Paris and it'd be great if I did it with the green jersey on my shoulders, it'd be a beautiful thing.”
Thursday's 211.5km 12th stage is from Tonnerre to Vittel. It includes six short climbs and so suits breakaways but it would be foolish to bet against Cavendish on any kind of sprint finish in this year's Tour de France.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 LINKS
Tour de France 2009 - the hub: Index to reports, photos, previews and more.
Stage 11: Cavendish takes fourth win to equal Hoban's record
Stage 10: Cavendish spoils Bastille Day party to take third stage win
Stage nine: Third French win as contenders content with ceasefire
stage eight: Sanchez wins from break as Tour favourites cancel each other out
Stage seven: Feillu wins at Arcalis, Nocentini takes yellow, Contador leap-frogs Lance
Stage six: Millar's brave bid denied on Barcelona hill as Hushovd triumphs
Stage five: Voeckler survives chase to win his first Tour stage
Stage four: Astana on top but Armstrong misses yellow by hundredths of a second
Live Tour de France stage four TTT coverage
Stage three: Cavendish wins second stage as Armstrong distances Contador
Stage two: Cavendish takes first sprint
Stage one: Cancellara wins opening time trial
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Tour de France 2009 News Index>>
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The Tour de France Comment: Monday, July 13
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Armstrong says Contador attack wasn't in the plan
Cavendish survives the first Tour mountain stage with ease
Wiggins, the Tour de France overall contender, has arrived
Garmin-Slipstream's HQ before the Tour
David Zabriskie's time trial bike
Mark Cavendish on the Tour's team time trial
David Brailsford interview
Mark Cavendish on the Tour
Jonathan Vaughters on Bradley Wiggins' chances
TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 PHOTOS
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four TTT photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Andy Jones
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Team presentation by Andy Jones
Team presentation by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2009 - the hub
Tour de France 2009: Who's riding
Tour de France 2009: Team guide
About the Tour de France
Tour de France 2009: Who will win?
Tour de France 2009 on TV: Eurosport and ITV4 schedules
Big names missing from 2009 Tour de France
Tour de France anti-doping measures explained
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
Cycling Weekly's rider profiles
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