Mark Cavendish’s sprint for a second win in the Tour de France ended in chaos today in Saint-Malo. He and Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano) crossed paths, with Cavendish leaving his rival on the ground.
Journalists swarmed the Argos-Shimano and Omega Pharma-Quick Step buses and Cavendish, clearly disappointed, responded angrily when a journalist asked if it was his fault.
“What was what?” Cavendish said while taking the journalist’s recorder. After it was returned, Cavendish said, “I lost the sprint, it was my fault. It was my fault for losing the sprint.”
Around 200 metres out, the two cyclists bumped shoulders. Veelers had finished leading out Marcel Kittel, who went on to win the stage, and was drifting back as Cavendish was starting his sprint. The TV images shows Veelers slighting moving right and Cavendish starting to move to his left with the road. They bumped shoulders and Veelers went down.
Cavendish continued to finish third behind André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), but shaking his head as he crossed the line.
“We came up, we lost our guys, Gert [Steegmans] went early,” Cavendish said. “I tried to follow Gert, if I had followed off his wheel and launched I would’ve been too early in the sprint so I settled back on Veelers wheel. Yeah, so when Greipel came, I went.”
“I know you’re trying to get all the ‘Mark Cavendish is a really bad sprinter again’ but with 150 metres to go the road bears left…All I do is follow the road…There will be net forums with people going mad about it but I follow the road, I’m not going to hit the barriers…” Cavendish added.
“The commissaires are already putting the blame on me [the commissaires actually said Veelers was at fault as he was leaving the sprint – Ed]…You can see he moves a little bit right, I move a little bit left…It’s not like I took his wheel, I’m following the road…It was the arms that touched anyway…”
He explained that the Tour de France organisers are partly to blame. “The road is going left. Make it a straight sprint [if you don’t want any incidents].”
The incident left Veelers bloody and upset. “I did my lead-out for Marcel, and as I did my job, I went out of the way. And it was Cavendish who took me off my bike. When I see the video it’s very clear it’s his fault, he has to be disqualified,” Veelers said.
“It’s unbelievable that something like that happens. I want apologies at least. I’m a little finished with Cavendish.”
Omega’s sport and development manger, Rolf Aldag told Cycling Weekly that Cavendish held greater blame. “Cav obviously has done the bigger move, we’re not blind, and Veelers lost his balance,” Aldag said. “The guy coming from behind has the advantage of seeing what happens. Cav was looking for the fastest line to the finish, which was to go to the left. Should he be disqualified? I don’t think so. It was not done on purpose.”
Kittel agreed and said, “It just happens. I saw the video of the crash, it was very unlucky that they bumped,” Kittel said in the press conference.
“Tom was going out, Cav was coming up from the right and their handlebars touched. Tom couldn’t control it and crashed. I can’t imagine that it was on purpose. It was the last moment of the sprint and sometimes that’s something that just happens.”