If this is to be the end – Cav a tribute

Where to start on this guy eh?

I won’t be writing about all the obvious stuff, the wins and the worlds and the record breaking feats.

I won’t be writing about the tantrums and the crashes, the road outside Betty’s in Harrogate and the heartbreaking interview with Sporza from the weekend.

Instead I am picking examples of ‘Cavtastic’ moments that won’t have registered with him but have made a massive contribution to my love of cycling.

If it is the end for the great man, what a career it has been.

I meet my hero in Brakel at the Primus Classic 2017

2007 – London – Tour de France prologue – Buckingham Palace

Our club hired a coach to take in this once in a lifetime experience and we were dropped off in The Mall with a nice view of the Palace and the straight away from the Queens home.

Most of us were there to cheer David Millar as his rehabilitation into the sport continued but there was a fresh faced youngster from the British track programme who was getting a debut with T-Mobile at this race.

At the time it was great for us Brits to have another rider to cheer on home roads. With hindsight we were privileged to have been on the roadside on the opening day on the Tour de France for our nations most successful ever rider at the event.

He showed plenty of the sparkiness and commitment on the 2nd day of that Tour around Kent and we wouldn’t have to wait long before he got his hands in the air on the worlds biggest race.

2008 – Tour de France Stage 5 – Chateauroux

My experience of Cavs first Tour de France stage win wasn’t in central France. My then girlfriend (now Wife) and I were headed to the Lincolnshire coast for a bag of chips and a walk on the beach.

Whilst travelling up the A16 and through Boston she wanted to listen to songs on the radio but I wouldn’t move the dial from BBC 5 Live and the updates from France.

Simon Brotherton called the Manxman home causing scenes of fist waving and screaming in the traffic jam into Skegness that day.

He went on to win 4 stages in that Tour.

RnkRiderTeamPntTime
1 CAVENDISH MarkTeam Columbia1005:27:52
2 FREIRE ÓscarRabobank ProTeam70,,
3 ZABEL ErikMilram50,,
4 HUSHOVD ThorCrédit Agricole40,,
5 COOKE BadenBarloworld32,,
6 HUNTER RobertBarloworld26,,
7 DUQUE Leonardo FabioCofidis, le Crédit par Téléphone22,,
8 MCEWEN RobbieSilence – Lotto18,,
9 CHICCHI FrancescoLiquigas14,,
10 DEAN JulianTeam Garmin – Chipotle10,,

2017 – Primus Classic – Brakel Belgium

In the middle of a brilliant weekend of cycling in Flanders with Fendrien we were delighted to see that Cav was down to ride the Primus Classic that weekend.

So we made the very short hop up the hill from Oudenaarde to Brakel and confidently strolled into the start village.

It was great to see the BMC’s and Cervelo’s in the paddock area and we hung around until the riders started to emerge from their buses and gather in the square.

Then it happened, there was a build up of sound and more feet padding around us as Mark Cavendish appeared to sign on.

As he left the podium there were babies thrust in his direction and lots of people shouting for selfies. I remembered that I’d read an interview where he had indicated that polite manners were the only way he’d agree to a picture so after lots of please’s and thank you’s he came over to the friendly English accents and posed for the picture at the top of this post.

He also chatted about his form, not getting picked for the worlds and what he hoped to achieve on that day.

It was a brilliant moment and one i will treasure, even more so if this is to be the end of his career.

As the results show he wasn’t a factor in the finish but we did get to see him on tv that afternoon before his work was done and he dropped out of the front group.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 TRENTIN MatteoQuick-Step Floors2001254:36:03
2 DRUCKER JempyBMC Racing Team150850:08
3 GREIPEL AndréLotto Soudal125600:18
4 GAVIRIA FernandoQuick-Step Floors10050,,
5 PASQUALON AndreaWanty – Groupe Gobert8545,,
6 CARDIS RomainDirect Energie7040,,
7 VERMELTFOORT CoenRoompot – Nederlandse Loterij6035,,
8 JANSEN Amund GrøndahlTeam LottoNL-Jumbo5030,,
9 RICKAERT JonasSport Vlaanderen – Baloise4026,,
10 GIRAUD BenjaminDelko Marseille Provence KTM3522,,

Whilst I hope this isn’t the end for Mark, its clear that coming back to the level he previously was is going to be nigh on impossible now and Sunday could have been the realisation of that fact.

Let’s see what happens now and where he goes from here. I wish him the very best of luck and would like to thank him for all the memories that go alongside the ones charted above.

Tour ’20 – Stages 20 and 21 – Roglic folds under pressure from Pogacar

Regular readers of this website will remember that my preview of this years race was based around my memories of 1989. Something that hindsight has proved to be good punditry!

There was little sign of what happened on stage 20 coming to pass, even as the two main protagonists, Tadej Pogacar and yellow jersey Primoz Roglic warmed up ahead of the start of their time trials.

But Pogacar was gaining time from the start and at the first unofficial GPS tracking check was already 12 seconds closer to his Slovenian counterpart.

This fast start from his opponent seemed to freak Roglic out and he was starting to fold before our very eyes.

As they both started to climb the Planch des Belles Filles and swapped bikes there was very little to choose between them on GC time. This was pheomenal as Pogacar had had to go a minute quicker to that point to get back level.

Once the guy in 2nd had overhauled the erstwhile yellow jersey to take the race lead he kept that pace up and stretched out almost another minute which was enough to leave him a comfortable winner in GC.

Maybe it wasn’t as close as the 1989 finish as I led you to believe then!

The pictures of Roglic struggling up the 20% gradient to the finish line with his face all sunken in and his crash helmet wonky to the point of looking comical was sad to see.

He rolled alone over the finish line before Tom Dumoulin and Wout Van Aert tried to comfort him. Just along the road from this sad sight Pogacar also has his head in his hands, but in disbelief and joy.

I feel a mighty amount of sympathy for Roglic to lose in this way and for him to go to bed without his yellow jersey, but with a broken heart. It was wretched for him and I wonder where he goes from here.

It says a lot about him as a man though, that he congratulated the man who beat him so soundly and that he was front and centre riding into Paris on Sunday. A much lesser man would have hid.

The final stage was less about drinking booze on the run in to Paris, another feature of this Covid world. Sam Bennett was the winner proving that his green jersey was thoroughly deserved (as if we doubted him!) and that he was the fastest man of the race.

Sorry Caleb and Wout!

So that’s it for the 2020 Tour de France, thanks very much for sticking with my coverage of the race. I really hoped you enjoyed reading how I saw it, please tell your friends and buy a Beers of Belgium CC jersey (using the store password of “FENDRIEN” ahead of the classics !

Here is the final top 10 on GC from www.procyclingstats.com

RnkRiderTeamTime
1 POGAČAR TadejUAE-Team Emirates87:20:05
2 ROGLIČ PrimožTeam Jumbo-Visma0:59
3 DOOR RichieTrek – Segafredo3:30
4 LANDA MikelBahrain – McLaren5:58
5 MAS EnricMovistar Team6:07
6 LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelAstana Pro Team6:47
7 DUMOULIN TomTeam Jumbo-Visma7:48
8 URÁN RigobertoEF Pro Cycling8:02
9 YATES AdamMitchelton-Scott9:25
10 CARUSO DamianoBahrain – McLaren14:03

Tour ’20 – Stages 18&19 – Kwiatkowski gets his reward

Polish domestique deluxe Michal Kwiatkowski got due reward for his years in service of Tour de France winners when he took stage 18 after a long breakaway.

With team mate Richard Carapaz, they took flight from the days break along with serial escapee Marc Hirschi of Sunweb.,

The most active rider of the race was keen to add to his stage win last week but crashed on a descent leaving the Ineos pair alone at the head of affairs.

With the gap big enough and the favourites not interested in attacking they had the luxury of sorting out who was going to win on the run in to the finish. It was brillant to see a clearly emotional Kwiatkowski cross the line for a rare, but really popular win.

Stage 10 saw Soren Kragh Andersen win the stage after a day that was only brightly animated by Remi Cavagna in a long lone breakaway that was always doomed but was entertaining enough to avoid switching the TV off.

Late in the stage a breakaway did escape including a number of good classics riders. Luke Rowe , Nils Pollit, Tim DeClercq and the king of Flanders Greg Van Avermaet made the split.

However Andersen was able to repeat the feat as he did on the way into Lyon escaping to win his 2nd stage of the Tour.

All eyes now move to the final weekend of the race and its opening and only time trial.

It’s been a really decent Tour so far so let’s hope for an exciting final weekend of action.

Tour ’20 – Stages 16&17 – Kamna fulfills the promise whilst Superman flies

After a quiet few days at the start of last week, the Tour de France has been really exciting at the start of this culminating in yesterdays stage finish at the top of a new purpose built cycleway in the sky.

The two alpine stages have been going over new ground and exploring, whilst retaining the tradition of scenary and toughness that makes them the best part of the race (for me at least).

The first of the most recent two stages saw Egan Bernal dropped again before abandoning and Jumbo taking the opportunity to let breakaways go.

In fact the Tour de France 2020 has become the year of the lone winner with the likes of Marc Hirschi, Soren Kragh Andersen, Lennard Kamna and now Miguel Angel Lopez.

Kamna was part of a stage 16 breakaway that included Richard Caparaz and Julian Alaphillippe before he gave the Ecuadorian a fake suffer face and then attacked him.

Villard de Lans will always be about 1989 and Laurent Fignon for me so it was a real trip down memory lane for the race to finish their again.

Kamna was a worthy winner to honour that history pulling away on downhill, flatlands and climbs to make sure he won.

Carapaz and Alaphillippe looked to get over the disappointment by being in the next days breakaway on stage 17 only to be caught by the GC battle.

Meribel put on its finest display for the race arriving and as the Bahrain led peloton sped through the town to get tot the new finish at Col de la Loze it felt like we had the real race back again. For a few minutes there were cheering fans and despite their masks it was a brief moment where covid wasn’t on my mind.

The new bike path looked amazing despite its fluctuating gradient and it had the desired effect on breaking up the GC leaders including Bahrains leader Mikel Landa meaning all their work was not rewarded.

‘Superman’ Lopez got away and behind him the likes of Richie Porte and Rigoberto Uran started to fade.

Then it was the leaders turn with Primoz Roglic putting some daylight between him and Tadej Pogacar as the road got over 20% in steepness.

However Pogacar wasn’t gone for good and he battled back to limit his losses to 15 seconds meaning he is 57 down now against the yellow jersey.

This race is most definitely not done and I am enjoying every minute of it. Let’s see what today brings.

Tour ’20 – Stages 14&15 – Is Pogacar the man most likely?

With defending champion Egan Bernal definitively falling away from contention, Tadej Pogacar looks like the only man who can deny Primoz Roglic Slovenia’s first Tour de France win.

A twist or irony being that in doing so, he would also become the first Slovenian to take home the yellow jersey.

The best of the rest are currently Rigoberto Uran and Richie Porte and whilst both are talented and Tour proven, they are approaching veteran stage and wont get enough time back to get ahead of the two riders topping GC.

Sunday saw a flat stage into Lyon that had plenty of excitement and it was Sunweb who again challenged existing tactical norms by almost attacking as a team near the end. In footballing language, Marc Hirschi threw a dummy before the real attack came from Soren Kragh Andersen.

He held on to win in the ‘grand manner’ crossing the line alone before being mobbed by team mates. There is growing interest in their British coach Matt Winston and with the poor showing of our “national” team at this Tour de France it seems only a matter of time before the Ineos cheque book gets waved at him.

I am all for innovative and exciting, open racing so long may he continue in that style whichever team car he is sat in.

Sunday saw an unusual stage in that it climbed the Grand Colombier three times from different routes up.

Pic from Procyclingstats.

To be fair they could have found another two or three routes up and many of the favourites would have been struggling.

First Nairo Qunitana slowly dropped off the back before Bernal popped out of the line of riders following the Jumbo train before losing contact and ground rapidly.

The way that Wout Van Aert rode for kilometer after kilometer on the front was spectacular and as the spring opened up they had pinned the other riders to the gutter so hard that they still had one rider left.

Chris Froome told ITV that their display reminded him of Sky in their prime.

But they are due a bad day and Roglic does have previous of making what looks like a simple run in more complex by having a crash or mechanical or getting caught in the wind.

You would think that despite not having a strong team Pogacar will be much more alert to any splits that might occur. At the moment the two of them are inseperable and it will be down to the final time trial on Saturday in the Vosges.

But will Jumbo be confident enough in their leader not to have to put Pogacar further behind if they can?

I wonder…

Tour ’20 – Stages 12&13 – Hirschi makes his Marc

I do love a good cliche. Sadly todays headline isn’t one! but we will go with it anyway.

Marc Hirschi has been one of the heroes of the tour so far with his stage 2 breakaway followed up by heartbreak 1.5km from home on the 2nd mountain stage.

But he kept his levels of self belief high and on a cat 2 climb used his Sunweb team to get him placed off the front before he put down the power and rode away from a group of hilly route specialists including Max Schachmann and Julian Alaphillippe.

With his recent 2nd and 3rd placed finishes no doubt playing on his mind, Hirschi didn’t let off the gas until well inside the barrired area at the finish and this time there were tears of joy as he landed his first (of no doubt many) professional wins.

Yesterday saw an Ardennes type stage with the race continuing across the belt of France. Surprisingly, the stats gurus were saying that despite no massive major mountain passes this one had the most VAM of the whole Tour.

There was a decent sized breakaway with good quality riders away for most of the day and this time it was Schachmann who was caught late on in the stage. His team mate Leonard Kamna being dragged across to him by Dauphine champion Dani Martinez.

Despite Bora have two riders in this break, Martinez bided his time before unleashing a great sprint to take the win.

Further down the climb Tadej Pogacar and yellow jersey Primoz Roglic escaped the remaining favourites with Egan Bernal off the pace.

Two great riders of Tours de France past left the race after a crash. Bauke Mollema and Romain Bardet. I wish both a speedy recovery.

Tour ’20 – Stages 10 & 11 – Sagan punished for avoiding fan?

It’s been a pretty sedate couple of days for the Tour as it recommenced on the Atlantic coast around La Rochelle.

No hope breakaways or no breakaway at all have been the order of the day and sprinters Sam Bennett and Caleb Ewan took advantage to win their first and second stage of the race respectively.

For Bennett it was the first of his career having played second fiddle to Peter Sagan for his time at Bora/Hansgrohe so it will have been a sweet moment to beat his old team mate and take the green jersey from him.

Sagan’s struggles continued into yesterday where he managed to get relegated from his final position to last on the stage for an alleged head butt on Wout Van Aert.

I say alleged because the pictures are pretty clear cut and there is no doubt that he did collide with him but overnight footage has emerged showing that Sagan may well have been ducking to avoid a selfie stick and fool hanging over the barriers.

If that is the case I would like to think that the jury would reinstate him and give him the points back.

Off the bikes and the rest day covid tests have put a number of teams including Ineos and Ag2R on one of their two strikes.

Although with Tour race director Christian Prudhomme holed up in isolation for another 11 days its unclear who would actually have the authority to make that call!

Here is a link to the current GC from procyclingstats.

Tour ’20 – Stages 3 & 4 – Cousin evokes memories of old

Jerome Cousin of Total/Direct Energie was keen to push on with the stage 3 breakaway to Sisteron. The two other members of the move were more interested in accumilating KOM points and then not contributing so with around 130km to go Cousin pushed on.

His wonderful curly mullet and posh Scott specs make him look every inch the 1980’s retro pro as his long lone breakaway brought back memories of a couple of rides of that era.

Most notably the 1989 breakaway in the first week by Joel Pellier of the BH team. He managed to go the distance and was greeted by his family at the finish. They’d never seen him race as he had a disabled brother who needed constant care and this was the first opportunity for someone else to help out with that and allow his parents to watch the Tour live. It was one of the great stories of any Tour.

Back to 2020 and Cousin managed to stretch his advantage to 4 minutes but the peloton were never feeling generous enough to give him any more of an advantage. Shame.

There were times in his ride where he looked a bit bored riding puppy paws through the lovely scenery. I think he knew from quite a long way out that he would be caught and that didn’t really help his morale.

The catch came in time for Caleb Ewan to fly through the sprinters and take an easy win. It was a great finish to watch from the over head camera and he zig zagged through the group to beat Sam Bennett who left us in no doubt how upset he was by his reaction in crossing the line.

Lot’s had been written about stage 4 and the finish at Orcieres-Merlette. Luis Ocana and Steven Rooks are pretty decent names for a town to have on its palmares of stage winners and in Primoz Roglic 2020 added to that list.

The stage itself wasn’t a classic despite friend of Fendrien Krists Nielands being away until the final climb.

For a mountain stage there were a lot of riders in the group coming into the last 2km. I wonder if this is down to the lack of racing and everyone being at a mostly similar level perhaps?

Jumbo were taking no prisoners and the speed they went into the latter metres of the stage was more than sufficient to deter any attacks. Adam Yates admitted as much in his post race interview.

Sepp Kuss provided the perfect platform for Roglic to outsprint the other favourites and make a real statement of intent for the remainder of the race.

Tour ’20 – Stages 1 & 2 – From high farce to sublime

After all of the issues with Covid-19 and the delay in starting the race, the last thing the fledgling Tour de France of 2020 needed was storms on the tricky descents on the opening stage.

It made the stage 1 a bit of a joke with the majority of GC teams not wanting to race. Conversely, a number of opportunists or medium mountain stage experts wanted to take one of the few opportunities to demonstrate their skill set in this years event.

You had the likes of Pavel Sivakov and George Bennett, key riders for their leader in the coming weeks, on the deck and injured. Miguel Angel Lopez, whose Astana team were one of the few who wanted to go for it in the rain, managed to face plant into a road sign and that was enough to see a general truce until the 20km to go marker.

There was still time for a crash under the 3km banner and that took down French star Thibault Pinot. His morale has always been classed as fragile in the media and it was sad to see him showing his frustration like a three year old in Toys-r-us.

One bright spot however was the win for Alexander Kristoff. Now classed as a veteran, the Norweigan produced a perfectly timed run for line, shutting out all of the madness unfolding behind him to get the yellow jersey.

The organisers will have been delighted to see the warm and sunny conditions for day 2 and they were rewarded with a much better stage as a result.

The main breakaway of the day duked it out for the King of the Mountains points splitting and reforming on the scenic terrain around Nice. Peter Sagan also made an appearance but still seems to be a little way short of his best. There was no smiling and waving when he got dropped. He just carried on waiting to get caught by the chasers.

The famous Col D’Eze was the place that the stage hunters has targetted as key to getting to the front on. It was a bit of a strange few KMs on the run in with Jumbo. who’d been on the front all day, almost seeming to want to keep the break clear to avoid chaos on the climb.

This tactic failed and the first attack that stuck was Julian Alaphillippe who shot out of the pack with Marc Hirshi of Sunweb sticking to his back wheel like glue.

When it became clear that this pair were going to get away, Adam Yates zoomed across from the peloton and the trio remained clear to contest the finish. They got to the final few hundred metres before the messing about started.

It was a good job they did wait until late on to open the sprint as they were almost closed down by a group behind hurtling towards the line.

Alaphillippe would have been thinking about his recent defeat to Wout Van Aert at Milan-San Remo on a similar finish and opened the sprint first this time holding off a late run from Hirschi.

After the farce of day 1, the emotion of the win and yellow jersey for the Frenchman was really important for the race. Having lost his Father during lockdown the first iconic image of this years Tour was Alaphillippe pointing skywards to his Dad and shouting “I did it Dad”.

Like many I am sure, I shed a tear.