Mark Cavendish found himself at the centre of controversy again after today’s sprint at the Tour de France in Bourg-lès-Valence. Cavendish convincingly won ahead of Italian Alessandro Petacchi, but his win came after his HTC-Columbia lead-out man Mark Renshaw head-butted a rival.
The race jury disqualified Renshaw after it reviewed the replay.
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“I am really disappointed with the decisions. The commissaries make their decisions and we think there were different circumstances,” Cavendish responded to the decision. “Mark is a great rider and a incredibly good bike handler.”
The decision overshadowed Cavendish’s third victory in this year’s Tour de France and created more controversy around an already controversial season.
He criticised his teammate André Greipel in April, gave a two-fingered salute in the Tour of Romandy in May and treated his bike roughly last week after losing. This time, though, he did not directly start the controversy.
Renshaw explained that “it was track tactics” he used.
In the final metres, the Australian fought for space with Garmin-Transitions’ Julian Dean. He leaned his head into Dean’s upper body to make way for himself and to allow Cavendish to get through.
Cavendish easily won the sprint, Petacchi was second and Dean’s captain, Tyler Farrar, finished third.
“It’s not normal, you have to ride a straight line,” said Farrar. “He let ‘Cav’ by, and then he tries to crash everyone against the barriers. You have to think of the safety of everyone.”
After a left turn, the final kilometre of the 184.5-kilometre stage started. It was a dead-straight finish where HTC-Columbia led with Bernhard Eisel and then Renshaw.
“I saw Julian on the right, he had his left elbow out over Mark’s right elbow, to stop him from moving forward,” explained Cavendish. “That leaves the situation where they can tangle bars and they can come down. Mark did a great job of giving himself and the rest of the guys space. It was the only way of keeping Julian’s elbow away.”
Cavendish started his sprint from farther out than normal, near 375 metres, and said that he was happy he could pull it off. His happiness turned to frustration, though, as storm of controversy again came down on him.
His next chance for a sprint win comes next Friday in Bordeaux. Missing Adam Hansen due to an early crash and now Renshaw, he will have more difficulty pulling off a win to erase this controversy.
“We will see what we can do with the situation.”
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