Mark Cavendish showed up for work on stage five of the Tour de Suisse only to find some very unhappy workmates greeting him at the start line, writes Philip Gomes.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

Imagine showing up for work one day only to find your workmates staging
an intervention over your inability to obey workplace OH&S rules?

that's exactly what happened to Mark Cavendish prior to the start of
the fifth stage of the Tour de Suisse.

Ok, well maybe the rules
of bicycle racing aren't as hard and fast as those applied by the
OH&S bureaucrats, but in an environment where you really do often
rely on your co-workers to ensure your safety, Cavendish pulled off a
howler of a bad day at the office on stage four.

Not only did the
Manx Mauler take himself out Djamolidine Abdoujaparov style, but like
the legendary Tashkent Terror he also took out most of the peloton who
had joined him in the sprint - and not many of them were happy campers
at the morning water cooler.

"We just want to send a message to
Cavendish to ask him for more respect," said AG2R sporting director
Gilles Mas, whose team rider Sebastien Hinault was elbowed by the
British rider in the fourth stage.

Worse still is the suggestion
from subsequent unconfirmed reports that Cavendish spat at his primary
adversary on that stage, Heinrich Haussler.

With incidents like
this it's always good to hear how the elder statesmen of sprinting
assess the situation, themselves having matured from raw aggressive
young guns.

As Robbie McEwen observed to Cyclingnews when pinning
the blame squarely on Cavendish, "[he] has gotten used to winning a lot
in the last couple of years and things have gone very smoothly for him.
But a pro athlete has to learn and accept that every year is not the
same and how to deal with setbacks physically and mentally.

still has the talent and the speed. He has to figure out the best way to
get back to his best and that seems to be by trial and error at the
moment. He's a young guy who came up very quickly and is discovering new
aspects about cycling and himself. He has many years left in front of
him as a pro and for sure many victories."

Despite Haussler's
post crash suggestion that he would have won had Cavendish not strayed
from his line, the eventual stage winner, 36 year old Alessandro
Petacchi, saw things differently.

"I don't know what happened in
front. Maybe the wind had something to do with this unfortunate finish. I
don't like winning this way. If Cavendish hadn't crashed, he would
certainly have won."

Yes, even in losing Cavendish is acknowledged as the fastest man on two wheels amongst his sprinting peers.

incident follows on from the recent one at the Tour de Romandie, where a
return to form saw him win the second stage.

There, Cavendish
gave the proverbial two fingered salute to assembled journalists as he
crossed the line, annoyed at the criticism of his below par early season
form. His team, HTC-Columbia, responded to that PR debacle by sending
him home early.

Cavendish showed contrition following that
incident, saying, "I apologise to everybody watching the race and
especially the kids. I am not proud of releasing the feelings in that
way. I hope I can redeem myself and show my feelings and passion for
cycling with some exciting results in the next couple of months, rather
than with a gesture such as the one [I made] yesterday."

But this
time around no such similar apology was forthcoming. "I'm not gonna say
that I wasn't wrong but I don't think I'm the one who should have taken
all the blame. That's disappointing," said the HTC-Columbia rider.

a full and frank apology to the men he spends several hours a day
riding handlebar to handle bar with is as important as one to the

A professional courtesy, an acknowledgement that
clearly, again, he was in the wrong. But hey, how many of us really
understands a sprinters mindset?

I love Cavendish, I love what he
brings to the finish of a race, he's a journalists wet dream, allowing
them to write copious column inches like this one, but clearly the
burden of his immense sprinting talent is a heavy one for him to carry.

it gets a bit lighter as the wins begin to flow again, as they most
surely will, and he'll grow to enjoy the amazing gift that it is -
winning both often and well.