Aussie Focus

Cavendish survives as green jersey battle heats up

The green jersey was hotly contested throughout Stage 9 of the Tour de France, with every moment from the start to 36 minutes after Australian stage winner Ben O'Connor (AG2R-Citroen) finished all having some bearing on the future winner of the classification.

From the start of the stage, it was clear the Team BikeExchange had a plan to be aggressive, hitting the early category 2 climb with pace and forcing a group containing Australian Michael Matthews clear at the front of the race. Matthews was driven into the intermediate sprint by his teammates, with Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) in tow. 

Colbrelli sprinted to the win, water flying in his wake as Matthews took, second, Colbrelli took the 20 points on offer, with Matthews grabbing 17, while points classification leader Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) scored none with his focus solely on survival.

As the stage continued, Matthews dropped back to grupetto to save his energy for another day, but Colbrelli maintained in the chasing group behind O'Connor, eventually riding to third on the stage after overtaking riders late on the climb to Tignes. With the high finish, Colbrelli took 15 extra points for the sprint jersey, and propelled his way up to third in the classification in the most unconventional fashion for the classification that is normally decided in the flat sprints.

“I tried to go in the breakaway for the intermediate sprint," said Colbrelli post-stage. "I’m happy I took the points there. I then felt good legs and continued to try and fight for the team classification. There are more opportunities for me, and I will try for the jersey.”

Menawhile, some 36 minutes after the race, and just before the 37'20 cut off, an emotional Cavendish nearly collapsed after completing the stage, scraping in under the time cut on a day where seven others failed to finish within the time limit and three more abandoned mid-race.

"This was one stage I was terrified of," Cavendish said. "I'm emotional I got over it. I'm delighted I'm still on the race… But the worst part is there are many days like this to come. As much as I missed the Tour de France, I didn't think of these mountain stages."

"In the last couple of years, watching the race on TV, I was a bit jealous that Deceuninck-QuickStep always got someone dropped to take care of their sprinter while, in my last participation, I was left to my own devices. Today I could count on Tim and Michael to support me. I'm so humbled and physically broken."

Cavendish kept his green jersey, thanks to an impressive points buffer that he built over the course of his two early stage wins. Canberran Michael Matthews sits second in the standings for the green jersey, moving 17 points closer to Cavendish, on 168 points to Matthews' 130, with Colbrelli third on 121.  

Riders that finished after the time limit included star French sprinter Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ), while Nicholas Dlamini (Qhubeka-Nexthash) was clapped and supported home by many after he finished over 40 minutes outside the time cut, some 80 minutes after O'Connor, with the Qhubeka-NextHash team reporting that he had crashed during the stage but refused to give up.

“I honestly didn’t feel that great today," said an emotionally-drained Dlamini after the finish. "It’s sad that I’m a bit far behind. I just wanted to honour my dream. Today was just one of those days."

The Tour de France will take a well-earned rest day, before returning with an expected sprint stage, 191 kilometre stage from Albertville to Valence. Watch from Tuesday evening at 2030 AEST on SBS, SBS OnDemand and the SKODA Tour Tracker for all the action from what has been a tumultuos Tour de France.

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4 min read
Published 5 July 2021 at 6:14am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS