A stormy and fractious day at the Tour de France ended with Mark Cavendish blaming his Etixx-QuickStep team-mates for his failure to win stage two to Zeeland.
A year to the day since Cavendish crashed out of the Tour in his mother’s hometown of Harrogate, the 30-year-old Manxman experienced further disappointment in finishing fourth behind Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) on the 166-kilometre route from Utrecht.
Cavendish, who is still chasing the 26th Tour stage win of his career, pointed the finger at leadout man Mark Renshaw for launching his sprint too early, with 300m to go. Cavendish was overhauled by Greipel, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek) in the finishing straight across the Pijlerdam. To rub it in, Cancellara’s third place and accompanying bonus seconds saw the Swiss take the race leader’s yellow jersey ahead of Tony Martin, another Etixx-QuickStep rider.
Cavendish, who would have preferred to hit the front with 200m to go, said: “I think Mark went too early and kind of left me hanging. We died.
“The day Cancellara beats me in a sprint I’ve gone too long. I’ve gassed it. It’s disappointing, Tony’s disappointed.
“I have just watched it back on the video and the guys behind played it perfect. I reckon I could get a job as a lead-out man for them.”
There could be major repercussions for Cavendish, who is out of contract with the Belgian squad at the end of the year, as Etixx-QuickStep could have ended the day with the stage win, the points classification’s green jersey and the yellow jersey.
Etixx-QuickStep team boss Patrick Lefevre said: “Cavendish stopped sprinting and this costs Tony the jersey. I am not happy at all. Probably this was our last chance to take the yellow jersey.”
Chris Froome finished seventh, on the same time as Greipel, and Alberto Contador 13th, four seconds behind, while Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana were one minute 28 seconds adrift.
Today’s 159.5km third stage goes from Antwerp to the finish atop the category three Mur de Huy.
Australian Rohan Dennis claimed the first yellow jersey of the Tour on Saturday with victory on the 13.8-kilometre time-trial in Utrecht and broke Chris Boardman’s 21-year-old top speed record in the process.