Beyond the Peloton

July 16, 2010 7:41 AM

Mark Renshaw Loses His Head

Mark Cavendish wins his third stage of this Tour with another fantastic sprint finish. He now has 13 career stage wins, inching toward a place in the top 10 all-time.
But it was his teammate who really made news during Stage 11. His wing man, Mark Renshaw, a great sprinter himself and probably the best lead-out man in the business, got thrown out of the Tour. He committed two outrageous fouls in the final 500 km and his DQ is wholly deserved.

Watch the video here, pay particular attention at the 1:40 mark, where overhead shots provided all the evidence race officials needed to see:

Renshaw's most egregious foul actually was not the three headbutts he dished out to Julian Dean. It was his clear interference on Tyler Farrar, riding far off line and nearly pushing Farrar into the barrier on the left. It's hard to say if Farrar would've chased down Cavendish in a fair sprint, but he never had the chance for that. Farrar clearly had to slow down and then get around a slowing Dean to re-accelerate. And of course by then, Cavendish was long gone.

renshaw.jpgIt was really perplexing how Renshaw just lost all his marbles and decided to channel his inner Zinedine Zidane (but we are in France, after all). He doesn't have a reputation as a dirty rider and Cavendish probably could've won this stage anyway without his extracurriculars.

His expulsion is shocking, but hardly unjust. The Tour had been lenient with Spain's Carlos Barredo and Portugal's Rui Costa after their dustup at the end of Stage 6, fining them each 400 Swiss francs ($435) but allowing them to stay in the Tour. But in this case, the fouls had a direct impact on the race itself, and the referees decided to crack down.

Renshaw's ouster will hurt Cavendish in the remaining two or three sprint stages that he has a chance to win. His team is already weakened by George Hincapie's defection after last season, and now, without his launch pad, the Manx Missile might not be so explosive the rest of the Tour.

Stage 12 Preview (Bourg de Peage to Mende)

This won't be a day for the sprinters, with the route coursing through the Massif Central. It will be a day of extreme paranoia by the GC leaders, because it's just the kind of stage a sneak attack may materialize and big chunks of minutes can be lost suddenly and easily. The course ends on a Cat. 2 climb - but don't be fooled, the 3.1 km ride will be as brutal as any in this year's race because it's on a killer 10.1% gradient.

Prediction: Alexandre Vinokourov. He's been itching to win a stage in his first time back in the Tour after a two-year ban. But if he's allowed to win the stage, it won't be by much, as the leaders still view him as a threat. Andy Schleck will keep his yellow by watching Alberto Contador very carefully. He'll let Vino go unless the gap gets out of hand.

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