Thursday, July 08, 2010

Le Tour 2010 - Stage 4 - The old guard prove to be more experienced at this game. What a surprise.

Cavendish had some spectacular leadouts in last year's Tour. The final stage into Paris being the extreme example - a perfect leadout that took advantage of the correct line through the last bend, something almost everyone else failed to do, followed by immediate acceleration to top speed. No hesitation, just the perfect launch. Cavo had no problem taking advantage and capitalising. But this year - so far - he has failed to get a good lead out. Either he has lost contact with his lead out man, Renshaw, or failed to jump out of his slipstream at the right time. It's still early days and everyone is shocked and stunned after 3 brutal road stages, but stage 4 really highlighted the problem. In contrast Petacchi and his leadout team have weathered the storm better and are showing more skill in jumping at the right time. They are also disrupting the HTC train, something no-one could do last year on a regular basis. Indeed last year HTC looked and worked more like the Petacchi or Cipollini trains from last decade, and it worked. This year HTC are trying to get it together but missing a link somewhere, with a resultant lower launch speed. It's that failure to launch from top speed that's allowing other teams to get in there and jump first.  McEwen almost capitalised on Petacchi's initiative, too. So there is life in those old, experienced legs after all.

Cavendish and team will no doubt come back, but it must be disappointing to the HTC team to see him just switch off like he did, though. It sends a surprising message: I'm not serious about the green jersey, guys. Bring on Stage 5!

Tour De France: Stage 4, Route Maps & Results |
The champagne would be flowing for Petacchi following his second stage win in this year's Tour. Amongst those other experienced hands animating the finish of stage four were Danilo Hondo, Julian Dean and Robbie McEwen, the latter jumping out of the pack with Petacchi at the 200m mark to ambush Mark Cavendish, who was swamped when lead-out man Mark Renshaw swung off in the finale.

The 'Manx Missile' lacked the speed to which fans became accustomed during last year's Tour and while his HTC-Columbia teammates pulled together well - as they usually do - in the closing kilometres of today's stage, the myriad crashes and unsettled nature of this opening week may have taken their toll on Cavendish.