Here's what got us talking on stage 14 of the 2016 Tour de France
Cav wins again
Mark Cavendish’s renaissance Tour de France continues to get better and better, as he comfortably defeated Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) into second and third to collect his fourth stage win.
Like so many sprints at the Tour de France this year, there was some doubt as to whether the result would stand after Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) gesticulated at the finish line, suggesting that Cavendish may have blocked his sprinting line.
The commissaries did review the sprint, but adjudged nothing in Cavendish’s sprint to be amiss.
Cavendish now joins Alessandro Petacchi on 48 Grand Tour stage wins, and moves to within four of Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins at the Tour. At this rate, it’d be a foolish move to bet against him adding to that tally on the Champs-Élysées stage.
John Degenkolb back in the mix
A welcome sight at the front of the bunch sprint was that of John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin), who managed to get onto Cavendish’s wheel on the run-in to the finish and contest a sprint for the first time at this Tour.
The German is still recovering from injuries sustained at the horrific collision with a car during a Giant-Alpecin training ride in January, that forced him to miss the entire classics season and therefore prevented him from defending his titles at Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix.
An anonymous start to the Tour made clear that he was still only on his way back to full fitness, but today was the first time we’ve really seen signs of the Degenkolb of old – fourth place is his highest result in any race since the incident.
Watch: Highlights of stage 14 at the 2016 Tour de France
Andre Greipel’s streak under threat?
It was another frustrating stage for André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), who again failed to get anywhere close to winning the bunch sprint, finishing down in sixth.
Since losing out in a photo finish to Cavendish on stage three in Angers he has failed to even get near to winning a stage. It’s quite a fall from grace for the German, who was the undisputed king of last year’s sprints as he waltzed to a career-best total of four sprints.
His barren run also means his record of winning at least one stage of every Tour de France he has entered, stretching back all the way to 2011, is under threat. With probably only one chance left for a bunch sprint on the final stage to Paris, he’s running out of time to sustain that streak.
Underperforming teams seek to salvage Tour
Now well into the second half of the race, teams whose Tours have thus far not gone to plan are beginning to anxious in their quest to make the race a success.
Today Cannondale-Drapac, FDJ and IAM Cycling all resorted to sending riders (Alex Howes, Jeremy Roy and Martin Elmiger respectively) to join usual suspects Bora-Argon 18 (Cesare Benedetti) in the day’s break, in the vain hope that the bunch make a mess of timing their chase.
Cannondale’s leader Pierre Rolland has failed to mount a GC bid, FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot abandoned the race with bronchitis while IAM Cycling’s main hope Matthias Frank joined him in withdrawing from the race earlier on stage 14.
Their efforts were to no avail, however, as the bunch kept them in check and reeled in the last survivors with 3.5km to go. Expect to see them out on the break many more times as the race nears its end.
An uneventful stage
It was a slow, uneventful stage at the Tour, with one of the main talking points being the lack of any real talking points.
A headwind slowed the pace of the race, so much so that the bunch arrived at the finish line at 16:45, nearly half an hour after the expected time of arrival.
On the back of such a difficult few stages, and with a monstrous final week in the Alps around the corner, the riders were clearly eager not to use up too much energy battling the tough wind blowing in their faces all day.