Mark Cavendish suggested he means business today as he beat his green jersey rivals over the line at the intermediate sprint on stage 12 to Tours.
Although Cavendish was only the sixth over the line – a five-man breakaway remained two and a half minutes up the road – this was the first time on this year’s Tour that Cavendish had led the peloton through an intermediate sprint.
He beat Andre Greipel by a hair’s breath, with an angry Peter Sagan - comfortably in the lead in the points standings more than 100 clear of third-placed Cavendish – remonstrating with Vaconsoleil’s Kris Boeckmans after feeling he was held up before taking eighth place.
The five-man break of Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), Manuele Mori (Lampre-Merida), Juan Antonion Flecha (Vaconsoleil), Romain Sicard (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun) went off the front early in the stage and led by as many as nine minutes, but were being gradually hauled back in by the peloton as the stage went on.
Cavendish, who has one stage win to his name so far in this Tour – on stage five to Marseille – was keen to taste victory again after being the subject of further controversy over the past two days.
The Manxman was sprayed with urine by a spectator during yesterday’s time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel in an apparent protest at his actions a day earlier, when he crashed into Argos-Shimano rider Tom Veelers in the final 100 metres of stage 10 to Saint-Malo.
Race organisers absolved Cavendish of blame for the crash, but Veelers and many fans saw it differently, and while one spectator took things to extremes, many others whistled and jeered Cavendish during yesterday’s time trial.