Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) certainly wasn’t happy after Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) smoked him and the rest of the field in Wednesday’s bunch sprint.
Cavendish crossed the line 12th and is 0-for-2 in sprints so far in this year’s Tour de France, a year after he won a record six stage victories.
“I am sure Mark will win a stage. I am 100 percent sure,” lead-out man Mark Renshaw said after the stage. “He has the legs, he is mentally strong enough, and with the team behind him, like Eisel, Martin, there’s no reason he won’t.”
So far this Tour, things haven’t gone as well for Cavendish as they did in his exceptional 2009 Tour.
Cavendish crashed Sunday in the first sprint, riding off his line in the final corner with 2.2km to go when he touched wheels with Bernard Eisel. Cavendish made it safely through the cobblestones Tuesday in good condition, but faltered Wednesday when Renshaw opened up the sprint with 300 meters to go.
Even before this year’s Tour started, Cavendish admitted it would be extremely complicated for him to match his magical run of 2009.
The route is different from last year, with fewer sprint-friendly stages. Plagued with health problems this spring, Cavendish hasn’t enjoyed the same dominance of form as in 2009, winning just two races ahead of this year’s Tour start.
And most importantly, Cavendish is missing some key players in his decisive set-up train, including George Hincapie, now at BMC, Adam Hansen, who crashed out in stage 1, and Michael Rogers, who is chasing his own GC chances this year.
“It didn’t work out well today. I went a bit early. We are also missing Hansen and Rogers in the lead-out. They are two guys with a lot of horse power. Michael has other objectives and Adam has to watch the Tour from his couch. It hasn’t gone to plan yet,” Renshaw said. “It’s not that we’ve stepped back, it’s that others have stepped up. Petacchi has Hondo and Lorenzetto, two good sprinters in their own right. We don’t have it as easy as last year.”
The other sprinters in the field know Cavendish will find his groove sooner or later. Petacchi, who’s won two sprints in his return to the Tour for the first time since 2004, says it’s just a matter of time before Cavendish is back on the podium.
“Cavendish is a great sprinter. He has nothing to learn from me or anyone else,” Petacchi said. “Don’t forget he won six stages last year. But so many things can happen in a sprint. Every sprint is difficult. It’s never easy to win.”