Mark Cavendish, the road sprinting ace from the Isle of Man, chose the high road after a disappointing start to his 2013 Tour de France campaign in today’s Stage One, a 213km race from Porto Vecchio to Bastia in Corsica.
Prior to this year’s race, Cavendish, the 2012 Tour’s Green Jersey winner had stated a desire to win the first stage and wear the Yellow Jersey, an honor he has not yet earned.
His hopes were dashed just minutes before the finish when chaos and confusion took over, both at the finish line and in the peloton, when the Orica-GreenEdge team bus got jammed under the finish gantry with the riders only 10km (6 miles) away.
Concerned organizers hurriedly announced a new finish location, 3km back, but minutes later the bus was dislodged and the finish was restored to its original point. This succession of changes caused turmoil in the fast-approaching peloton, and soon after there was a major crash that removed most of the top contenders from the reckoning for line honors, Cavendish among them.
Despite his disappointment, the road sprinting ace from the Isle of Man refrained from mentioning his own aspirations in post-race comments. Instead he focused on injured team-mates, most notably two-time time trial world champion Tony Martin of Germany, who received a range of injuries in the crash, including concussion, bruised lung, soft tissue injuries in multiple locations and a 5cm gash on his left elbow. Martin’s further participation in the race is still in question.
Cavendish stated through team channels, “I think the majority of the favorites for today’s stage were caught up. Luckily I didn’t go down. I was behind it. I’d seen my teammates end up a lot worse off. Tony Martin is in a bit of a state here. I can count myself lucky. It’s not as bad as it could be for me, but my bigger concern is my teammates who were not so lucky.”
About the cause of the crash, Cavendish was one of many who attributed it to the last-minute changes, saying, “The stage wasn’t too bad, not too different from what is normal at the Tour de France. What caused the problems is there was a change in the finish. We heard it on the radio with literally 5km to go that the sprint was in 2km. About a kilometer later when heading to the finish it was just carnage.”
Also, Cavendish’s main lead-out man, Gert Steegmans, was injured in the crash, which could the Briton’s chances in stage finale sprints.
Tour General classification favorites Chris Froome of Great Britain and Spain’s Alberto Contador were not severely affected by the crash, although Contador went down and sustained superficial wounds.
The first week of the Tour de France is renowed for its drama. This year a little added chaos has been a most unwelcome extra for riders, fans and organizers. The only upside to this story is the joy of Germany’s Marcel Kittel, 25, who took his first ever Tour de France stage win.