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Thu Apr 24 09:00:30 SAST 2014

Cavendish crash put down to individual battles

Mark Meadows, Reuters | 05 July, 2012 08:260 Comments
Team Sky rider Mark Cavendish after a crash less than 3km from the finish of the fourth stage of the Tour de France yesterday. The stage was won by German Andre Greipel
Image by: STEPHANE MAHE / REUTERS

Major crashes have already scarred the Tour de France less than a week into the race and while the bruises will heal, the underlying cause of the carnage is likely to linger.

World champion Mark Cavendish suffered a finger injury, scratches, a torn shirt and a battered helmet when he hit the ground 2,5 kms from the line along with Team Sky colleague Bernhard Eisel on the fourth stage won by Andre Greipel on Wednesday.

Sky had already suffered the loss of Kanstantsin Siutsou, who broke his leg on Tuesday, dealing a blow to favourite Bradley Wiggins’s hopes of overall glory given that he now has just seven team mates to help him.

Cavendish and Eisel, who needed stitches on a wound above the eye, will soldier on but the fact that teams are not really acting as teams and that individuals are instead battling for position is one reason for the array of crashes.

“In my opinion the fight is just bigger,” yellow-jersey wearer Fabian Cancellara, who recovered from a broken collarbone earlier this year, told reporters.

“No sprint team really has seven or eight riders that go on. With three km to go there was just this mass. A crash is just a normal fact. No one is doing it on purpose.”

Briton Cavendish made his name at the now defunct HTC Highroad team where a “train” of riders would help to protect him from trouble and lead him towards the front as stages reached their conclusion.

The London Olympic gold hopeful had already said when winning the second stage that he was “alone” at Sky and although he had Eisel for company on the streets of Rouen, the pair were closest when embroiled in a tangled mess of legs and bikes.

“He’s fine. Nothing broken, just cuts and bruises virtually all over which you would expect after hitting the ground at 70kph,” Team Sky director Sean Yates told reporters.

“Obviously he’s not too happy. It was a chance missed and I think he felt pretty good today.”

The worry for Sky is that Wiggins gets caught up in the mayhem, just like when he crashed out in 2011, and the dream of a first Briton to win the Tour will be over for a year.

Apart from the problems of Belarussian Siutsou, Jose Joaquin Rojas broke his collarbone on Tuesday and the injured Maarten Tjallingii has also withdrawn with a number of other riders suffering injuries such as dislocated shoulders and hand damage.

Crashes have always been part of 100-strong, wheel-to-wheel road racing but teams will now be furiously working out ways to better cocoon their top riders with another flat and fast, 196,5-km stage due on Thursday from Rouen to Saint Quentin.

Greipel had only a little sympathy for rival Cavendish.

“Crashes are part of the race,” the German said. “I hope he is okay and we can see another sprint against him.”

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