UTAH BEACH, France: Mark Cavendish’s African team will be aiming for a Tour de France double on Sunday after the Briton’s victory on the opening stage.
Cavendish will start Sunday’s 183km ride from Saint-Lo to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin in Normandy in the race leader’s yellow jersey but it is his Norwegian team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen who holds a better chance of winning due to the short, uphill finish.
But Boasson Hagen crashed in the sprint finish in Utah Beach on Saturday.
“After a brilliant leadout job, Edvald Boasson Hagen crashed in the final. Don’t worry though, EBH is okay & celebrating with us!” said Team Dimension Data on Twitter.
Boasson Hagen’s crash meant Cavendish didn’t see him at the finish and wasn’t even aware of the accident until told by a journalist.
“I’m so happy, we really wanted to win here today — the lads were incredible,” said Cavendish. “Edvald did the most incredible turn there at the end. We didn’t want him to lose any time because he could win (and take the yellow jersey on Sunday). He rode out of his skin today. I didn’t even know he’d gone down. I was looking forward to seeing him and was waiting for him at the finish.”
Cavendish also paid tribute to his other lead-out team-mates, Australian Mark Renshaw, Austrian Bernhard Eisel and Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg of South Africa.
Cavendish leads the overall standings by four seconds from Marcel Kittel and six to Peter Sagan due to time bonuses on the line. Most of the rest of the peloton are 10 seconds back.
But Cavendish himself has admitted it will be hard to keep the yellow jersey on Sunday.
“We’ll see how the day goes, as you saw today it’s quite windy around this region,” he said.
Kittel to ‘strike soon’
Kittel, who finished second ahead of Sagan in third, was gracious in defeat and vowed to come back stronger on another day.
In both 2013 and 2014 he had won the opening stage of the Tour and wore the yellow jersey the next day.
“No hard feelings with this 2nd place. Was early in the wind & Cav came fast from the back. Congrats @MarkCavendish!” he wrote on Twitter.
“And a big shout out to my @Etixx_QuickStep boys. Great work with controlling the race and setting me up for the final. We’ll strike soon!”
Kittel, who will wear the sprinters’ green jersey on Sunday as Cavendish will be in yellow, rejoiced at his countryman Paul Voss taking the polkadot jersey for top climber.
“Happy for @paulvoss86! He will wear the polka dot jersey tomorrow. So, Germany still gets a jersey after the 1st Tour stage.”
Sunday’s stage will see a battle for king of the mountains points — Voss picked up the only two on offer on Saturday after getting in the breakaway.
There are four categorised climbs on Sunday offering a maximum five points.
If a breakaway doesn’t manage to stay away, the finish will offer a chance for the peloton’s renowned ‘punchers’ to claim a stage win.
Ardennes Classics specialists such as Australian pair Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews, Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez, Ireland’s Dan Martin or Frenchman Julien Alaphilippe should be vying for the stage win.
But the finish is sufficiently tough that overall contenders including reigning champion Chris Froome and Colombian climber Nairo Quintana will likely also be jostling to try to snare some valuable seconds early in the race. AFP