Britain’s Mark Cavendish tightened his grip on the Tour de France green jersey on Wednesday despite losing out on the chance to claim a third stage victory on this year’s race.
Cavendish, who stylishly won stages two and three from bunch sprints to take his tally on the race to six wins in three participations, was among those who fell victim to a vicious headwind as the peloton chased down an earlier breakaway.
As Frenchman Thomas Voeckler won the stage for BBox-Bouygues after a successful breakaway, the best Cavendish could do was dominate a massive bunch sprint at the finish line seven seconds later.
As well as reminding his sprint rivals he is the boss, the 24-year-old Isle of Man rider’s third place added 26 points to his tally in the points competition to take his total to 96 points.
His closest rival is Norway’s former green jersey champion Thor Hushovd of Cervelo, who has 70 points, having picked up only 16 points on Wednesday because of his 10th place finish.
In third behind Hushovd is American Tyler Farrar of Garmin on 54 points, while German Gerald Ciolek of Milram is fourth on 42 points.
After the first successful breakaway in windy conditions, Cavendish’s team boss at Columbia, Bob Stapleton, hit out at the lack of contribution from some of the sprinters’ teams.
“He [Cavendish] is doing a great job, there is a lot of negative racing out there,” Stapleton said. “People seem to be afraid of Mark and want us to do the maximum amount of work while they do the minimum and that showed when they didn’t quite catch him today.”
Stapleton even suggested that some of their sprint rivals are not working so they can try to catch Columbia out later in the race when the accumulation of efforts begins to take its toll.
“I think so, he has consistently beaten the best and I think their hope is that over the course of the Tour they can tire us out and tire him out,” he said. “There is a good chance that tactic won’t work.”
The sixth stage is a 181.5km ride over undulating terrain from Gerona to Barcelona which should favor a breakaway and is most likely not to end in a bunch sprint, where most points can be earned.