SAINT-PAUL-TROIS-CHATEAUX, France (VN) — Mark Cavendish’s fourth stage win Sunday didn’t sit well with some of the other top sprinters who couldn’t hold back their frustration that perhaps Cavendish made it through Saturday’s brutal climbing stage up Plateau de Beille with something more than his own two legs.
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) was fuming at the finish line Sunday in Montpellier, wondering out loud to Versus reporter Robbie Ventura about Cavendish’s reversal of fortune.
“Cav made a really remarkable comeback after being dropped by the gruppetto for about 70km yesterday, so it’s a little frustrating to have him beat me so closely today,” Farrar told the TV channel at the team bus Sunday.
Farrar wasn’t the only one. Movistar’s José Rojas told told Spanish radio La Cope that “Cav always does that” and L’Equipe quoted the Spanish sprinter as saying about Thursday’s stage, “On the Aubisque, I didn’t see him, but on Luz-Ardiden, Cavendish was pushed. It’s not a surprise.”
Flash forward 24 hours and Farrar admitted that he probably spoke out of turn.
“It’s never a good idea to give an interview in the heat of the moment when you’re fired up from a race and I probably would have been better off to keep my mouth shut,” Farrar told VeloNews on Monday. “I don’t know. I am just going to worry about getting myself through the Alps and try to remedy the mistakes I’ve made in the past two sprints in Paris.”
Sunday’s frustration wasn’t the first time others have pointed fingers at Cavendish. Riders in May’s Giro d’Italia suggested that Cavendish made a similarly impressive comeback after being dropped in the stage that included two passages up Mount Etna. In neither case, at the Giro nor at the Tour, was Cavendish cited by the race jury, nor were there any photographs or video of Cavendish grabbing team cars.
HTC-Highroad officials Monday vehemently defended their star rider against accusations that he was taking pulls from vehicles, which would see him booted out of the race for blatant abuses.
Rolf Aldag told VeloNews that Farrar’s finish-line comments were likely fueled by frustration of being beaten in the sprint.
“For Tyler just to say that, without really knowing what happened, it’s bad for the sport,” Aldag said. “He should be more a sportsman because he comes out sounding like a sore loser. He should have the character to say that Cav was the faster rider and that he beat me. If he reacts like that, he sounds like a little child and doesn’t show a lot of class, in my opinion.”
Aldag strongly defended Cavendish, saying the British sprinter could not take a pull even if he wanted to.
“They are treating him like a thief, when they really don’t know what happened,” he said. “The commissaires are always with Mark. They are always watching the green jersey. There was a motorcycle with him all day. How do they think he could get away with this?”
Aldag said Cavendish crashed early in Saturday’s stage to Plateau de Beille when he misjudged a corner on a descent off the day’s first climb. Bernard Eisel immediately sat up to help pace Cavendish in the chase. Lars Bak and Danny Pate were also called out of the group to help drive the Manxster back to the tail of the bunch.
“We were risking losing four riders that day to help Cavendish get back. They rode like a team time trial down that valley to get back on,” Aldag said. “The commissaires were there the entire time. They were watching him closely the entire time. That’s why they have the rules. Cavendish really cannot defend himself against something that didn’t happen.”
Cavendish and Farrar will likely have plenty of chance to air out the issue if they want to in the coming days. Both will likely be “in the bus” through much of the final week as the Tour climbs some of the most challenging climbs across the Alps. The final word could come on the Champs-Élysées, where the pair will likely lock horns again.