Mon, Jul 18, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Cavendish sprints to his fourth victory

‘TRANSFER STAGE’:Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff crossed in second place and Tinkoff’s Peter Sagan was third, while Team Sky’s Chris Froome kept hold of the ‘maillot jaune’

AP, VILLARS-LES-DOMBES, France

The breakaway group rides past sunflowers in the 14th stage of the Tour de France between Montelimar and Villars-Les-Dombes, France, on Saturday.

Photo: EPA

Mark Cavendish approached the finish line with so much speed that German rival Marcel Kittel swerved out of the way.

The “Manx Missile” easily sprinted to his fourth stage victory in the Tour de France on Saturday.

“I didn’t see it,” Cavendish said of the incident with Kittel. “I was in front of him.”

Finishing in the peloton during the 14th stage, Team Sky’s Chris Froome had little trouble holding onto the maillot jaune.

“Today’s stage was quite welcome after the last few days of racing,” Froome said. “It was really nice to switch off a little bit and sit on the wheels inside the peloton.”

It was Cavendish’s 30th career win in the Tour, putting him within four of Eddy Merckx’s record. The British Team Dimension Data sprinter held up four fingers after crossing the line.

Kittel threw up his arm in protest when Cavendish passed him.

“I saw Cavendish overtaking me and suddenly cornering me,” Etixx-QuickStep’s Kittel said. “I had to brake to avoid a crash. It’s not for me to say if he made a mistake.”

Cavendish analyzed it only after watching the replay.

“We were next to the barriers and it was him coming off the barriers more than anything,” Cavendish said.

Norway’s Alexander Kristoff of Katusha crossed second, while world champion Peter Sagan of Tinkoff was third.

“Cavendish is just faster right now,” Kristoff said.

Kittel came fifth.

“Kittel had already lost and stopped his effort. He had lost his focus. Maybe Cavendish swerved a bit, but it’s nothing,” retired sprinter Laurent Jalabert said.

The peloton stopped for a minute of silence at the start of the stage in honor of the 84 victims of the truck attack in Nice. Froome, French champion Arthur Vichot and other leaders of the Tour took their helmets off and stood still at the start line.

It was the first of three days of national mourning in France and fans waved the national flag all along the 208.5km route from Montelimar to the bird sanctuary of Parc des Oiseaux in Villars-Les-Dombes near Lyon.

Cavendish’s personal record for wins in one Tour was six in 2009. His performance in this race has come as somewhat of a surprise, considering that he has been slowed by injuries in the past few seasons, but he seems rejuvenated after joining South African team Dimension Data this season.

“I’ve been a lot more patient than I was last year,” Cavendish said.

Froome remained 1 minute, 47 seconds ahead of second-placed Bauke Mollema of Trek-Segafredo and 2:45 in front of third-placed Adam Yates of Orica-BikeExchange in the overall standings.

Four riders — Martin Elmiger of Switzerland, Alex Howes of the US, Jeremy Roy of France and Cesare Benedetti of Italy — formed an early breakaway and opened up an advantage of about four-and-a-half minutes before falling apart in the final kilometers.

Known as a “transfer stage” because it was a lengthy leg that moved the peloton from one region to another to set up the ensuing mountain stages, the route took the riders by fields of grain and sunflowers amid winds exceeding 35kph.

The stage started 15 minutes early because of concerns over a strong headwind and concluded with a 3km straight directly into the wind.

Cannondale-Drapac’s Matti Breschel of Denmark crashed midway through the stage and was reported to have broken his collarbone.

The Tour was due to enter the Alps yesterday with a 160km leg from Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz featuring six climbs, including the hors categorie Grand Colombier.

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