On Stage 14 in the high mountains of the Pyrenees, you could see the pain on Mark Cavendish’s face. He is not built for climbing, Cavendish is a sprinter with explosive speed over a short distance.
Yesterday, the stage was on level ground with the opportunity of another win for Cavendish who did not fail his HTC-Highroad team. This was his fourth stage win this year – the fourth year in succession he has done that (in total he has 19 stage wins to his credit). Not even the great Eddie Merckx could equal that feat.
As Cavendish so rightly points out, he could not do this without the help of his team mates. As he says, he rode the 200 metres at the finish and they road 190 kilometres at the front of the peloton to keep him there. Yet again it was Mark Renshaw that led him out for his final burst of speed that took him over the line.
What of the riders who have ambitions to win the race overall? They were also at the front yesterday; with blustery winds throughout the day, they could not risk loosing time to a breakaway group. That happened on the stage to Le Grand Motte in 2009 when a split in the bunch left Alberto Contador vulnerable.
And today? Well, the riders have a rest day followed by a race to the Alps on Tuesday. Friday though should be the decisive day as the riders face the Col de Galbier followed by Alpe d'Huez. If any of the contenders can build up a decent lead on Contador then, that will put him under pressure for the individual time trial the next day. On the other hand, if he can ward them off, then it will be game set and match for a fourth tour victory for him and the sixth year in succession that a Spaniard has won the French race.