When the desire to win overwhelms the ability to make rational judgements, it calls for a redress of one's desire, writes Anthony Tan.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

July 5, 2014. The opening stage of the Tour
de France. Shortly before 5pm Central European Time.

In the early hours of the Australian morning on the east coast, and beamed over the live television feed, I hear the familiar voices of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen as the stage nears its conclusion.

1,700 metres before the line in Harrogate.

Tension in the peloton, as one can imagine, is fever-pitch.

Sherwen: "Cavendish, now, is just sitting there. He's got to close his eyes, concentrate on the wheel in front of him, and that's going to be Mark Renshaw."

Liggett: "Mark knows, if they show him the finish line with a clean pair of wheels, he will win."

Therein lay part of the problem.

Cavendish, perhaps for a split second, closed his eyes, as Sherwen suggested, and hoped for the best. As he said himself afterwards: "It was my fault. I'll personally apologise to Simon Gerrans as soon as I get the chance. In reality, I tried to find a gap that wasn't really there."

Or, he still thought he was the sprinter of 2008-12, when he amassed 23 out his 25 stage wins at Le Tour and was indeed the world's best sprinter.

As of July last year, however, and as demonstrated again Saturday in Harrogate, that is no longer the case. The best is Marcel Kittel.

Yet in his desperation to "find a gap that wasn't really there", Cavendish brought down not just himself and his own chances, but the chances of Gerrans and Orica-GreenEDGE.

Sometimes, Gerro is just a bit too bloody nice.

Only a few hours after he lost a seriously good chance not just to win the stage but take the maillot jaune (or, at the very least, take it the next day), he had the composure to wish Cavendish well! The same guy who, in one fell swoop of body and bike, brought both down and tore OGE's Tour plans to tatters.

"It was really too bad because I was up for the win, but I couldn't ask more from the guys because they put me in the perfect position," said Gerrans via his team's website, after the stage.

"I haven't seen the images of the sprint so I couldn't tell 100 percent what was happening, but obviously I went from being perfectly placed to hitting the ground really hard.

"I think I was lucky because I have mainly just lost some skin and feel quite bruised, but in crashes like that a lot worse can happen," he said.

Yeah, Gerro, you could have ended up like Cavendish, with a dislocated collarbone, and now out of the Tour. Or a broken collarbone.

Or worse.

For me, Cavendish's recklessness is reminiscent of the damage he caused to Heinrich Haussler four years ago, on Stage 4 of the Tour of Switzerland.

After doing everything in his power to change his licence, to be a part of an Australian line-up at the world championships in Geelong, the Manxman's absurd antics saw the pair hit the deck at 70km/h just metres from the line, ending Haussler's chance to compete at the 2010 Tour de France and that year's road world's.

Some seven months later, at the Tour of Qatar, still smarting from what happened, Haussler told Fairfax journalist Rupert Guinness: "I've got nothing to say to him (Cavendish). I think the people can make their own decision about what happened. Crashes do happen, but not crashes like that. I certainly don't respect him as a rider, or as a person. So that says everything."

It took Haussler's aforementioned remarks for Cavendish to apologise a day later, which the former accepted, albeit reluctantly.

"Hopefully I won't feel too bad tomorrow but no doubt I am going to feel the effect of what happened today," Gerrans said Saturday.

Truth is, because of Cavendish, he and his team could well be feeling the effects for the rest of the Tour.

At least this time, the apology came much sooner.

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