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African team in the headlines again as Cavendish grabs his third stage
- Updated: July 8, 2016
The Tour de France fairy tale continued for both Dimension Data and rider Mark Cavendish in Thursday’s stage six.
The British rider sprinted to his third victory at this year’s race. Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) was second in the lunge for the line and Dan Mclay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) placed third.
It’s now Cavendish’s 29th TDF stage win, placing him second, five wins behind Belgian legend Eddy Merckx.
At 190 kilometres from Arpajon-sur-Cere to Montauban, the terrain took in a few undulations but nothing significant enough to stop a big bunch sprint from deciding the final stage outcome.
Only two riders made the early break of the day and this all but assured that the sprinters would have their day, as Team Dimension Data, Etixx-Quickstep and Lotto-Soudal had no trouble at keeping the escapees at around three minutes for the majority of the day.
The inevitable catch took place just inside of 15km to go, and this is where things got really interesting. The road was rather narrow and it meant that the peloton was densely packed, with almost no room for teams to move up. Team Dimension Data were in the front third of the peloton but there just didn’t seem to be a way through for their leadout team to get to the front.
The narrow road continued right up until 3km to go and it was clear that a long leadout train was not going to work. Cavendish just wanted to be taken to the wheel of Kittel, from where he would then freelance to the finish.
The African team were able to get Cavendish locked on to the German’s wheel after some clever work by Mark Renshaw, and from there the Manxman showed his class. Jumping with around 300m to go, Cavendish came from behind Kittel to forge ahead on the slightly downhill sprint and took another incredible win for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka.
While the entire team were working toward the common goal of delivering Cavendish to the finale, Eritrea’s Daniel Teklehaimanot, played a huge part in the day’s victory as the national champion spent close on 150km working at the front of the peloton.
Friday sees the race will head into the Pyrenees and Cavendish will do so as the leader of the Green Jersey points competition once again.
As for Cavendish, he was quick to give credit to the team behind him. ‘It was a hot day. Daniel did an incredible job to control the breakaway. He was riding super strong actually and he was up there for a long, long time. The guys are getting more and more confident as the race goes on.
‘Steve was up there fighting with us until the end, which was phenomenal, he is a strong guy to keep us there in the final. There were essentially two finish lines, one was at 12km to go and one was at the finish.
‘We were a little bit too far back at the first one but Mark did a great job at 4km to go to get me just there and out of a sticky situation. I thought the best wheel to follow in the final was Kittel.
‘It was a fast finish and with the finish line not appearing until late I knew the guys would leave it late because your instincts are not to go before you see the line. I knew Kittel’s wheel was the one to get the biggest slingshot from and with the speed of the finish, I knew if I got a good slingshot I could be going 3-4km/h faster than him before he had time to react so that’s what I did and I was happy to hang on for the win.’
So the real mountains lie in wait for the General Classification favourites on Friday. The stage is a 162km trek between L’Isle-Jourdain and Lac de Payolle. Main feature is the daunting Col d’Aspin. There’s a long climb of 12km to the summit then a quick descent for a flat finish. The sprinters are going to suffer on this one and the mountain men will be wanting to fashion a statement of intent on what should be the hardest day in the saddle thus far.