Beyond the Peloton

July 8, 2010 11:06 AM

So We Were Wrong About Mad Manx

Yesterday we committed a classic - and time-honored - mistake by a sports journalist: Writing someone off before he's done. Well, Mark Cavendish (our own pick to win the green jersey before the race, for crying out loud) is certainly far from finished.

After winning Stage 5 in a brilliant sprint finish, Cav' dished out some finely braised crow, and we'll take Hollandaise sauce with that.

ALeqM5i15JCJThAe1iXubuTQhiKlX6xeDg.jpg"I had a bad start to this Tour," the Mad Manx said after the stage. "I set myself up so high after last year, and things haven't gone as I would have liked. I want to thank the people who stuck by me. A lot of people said bad things about me, I am sure I gave them reason to."

The reason was that after crashing in Stage 1, Cavendish had looked simply sluggish. In Stage 4, he had a perfect lead out from Mark Renshaw and yet he was blown away in the last 200 km by Alessandro Petacchi, among others. Cav' quickly shut it down and soft-pedaled to 12th place. On Versus, Phil Liggett chortled: "If he's not gonna win, he's not even gonna try."

There's no question there's enormous pressure on Cavendish. The entire HTC-Columbia team for this Tour is built around Cavendish, who won six stages in last year's Tour. They'll miss George Hincapie, who bolted for BMC after last season, but they still have the best lead out man in Renshaw, a former world champion in Mick Rogers and white jersey contender in Tony Martin.

After winning Stage 5, Cavendish still has a shot to win the green jersey, now that he's rebounded to eighth place with 50 points. But he might have put himself in too deep of a hole to mount a comeback, as he trails Thor Hushovd by 52 points - and Hushovd is a master at maintaining his advantage even if he's not winning individual stages.

But having written off Cav' once before, we've learned our lesson and will reserve judgment until further notice. After all, there's still more than two weeks' worth of racing left. ... And crow doesn't taste like chicken.

Stage 6 Preview (Montargis to Gueugnon)

At 227.5 km (141 miles), it's the longest stage of this year's Tour. There will be a breakaway early and maybe even late as there are two Cat. 4 climbs toward the finish. But the sprinter teams will make deals to make sure the attackers get reeled in before the finish because this is the last chance for the top sprinters before the Tour moves into the Alps on Saturday. The GC contenders, meanwhile, will sit back and rest their legs before the real show begins.

Prediction: Mark Cavendish. Now that he's got a taste of victory, he's going to be hungry for more. If he is on form, and he certainly looked like it in today's win, there's not a sprinter out there that can beat him in the mad dash to the finish line. Fabian Cancellara will hold on to the yellow jersey, for one more day or two.

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