Green machine at 36 on track for Paris podium

Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and his early success at the Tour de France has seen the Manxmann take a commanding early lead in the sprint classification standings.

It's been ten years since Cavendish won the green jersey, surprisingly the only time the legendary sprinter has accomplished the feat. Now, as a 36-year-old, he's taken a commanding lead in the 2021 points classification.

Cavendish timed his run to the line perfectly to win his second stage of the 2021 Tour de France, triumphing in Châteauroux for the third time in his career, the 32nd time in the Tour de France.

The Deceuninck-QuickStep sprint train went head-to-head with Alpecin-Fenix from a kilometre out from the sprint on the wide roads into the centre of the city finish. On opposite sides of the road initially, with teams picking their choice of who to follow, the two sides converged to the middle of the road.

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Cavendish left the wheel of his leadout man Michael Morkov to grab a bit more time out of the wind before the impressive surge of Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) finally faded.



Cavendish jumped from the Alpecin-Fenix train to power past Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) to win Stage 6 of the Tour de France ahead of Philipsen and Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic).

The win means that Cavendish took his second serving of 50 points for the winner, and moved into a strong position in the green jersey standings, his tally now at 148 points. He has a 46-point gap to his nearest rival, Philipsen, with previous green jersey winner Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) and seven-time winner Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe), 52 and 76 points behind respectively.



Cavendish is in a very strong position in the jersey standings, especially given that no one rider involved in the battle for green in Paris distanced themselves on the opening two hilly finishes, where there was also the full slate of 50 points at the finish. 

If Cavendish can maintain anywhere near this impressive run in the sprint finishes, chip away in the flat intermediates and survive the mountains it will be hard to overhaul the Tour de France legend for the podium appearance in Paris. With a strong leadout, he should be quite consistent in the sprints, and the intermediates have been relatively straightforward so far in the race.

The biggest 'if' of those is whether he'll survive the mountains. After a season of preparation that wasn't aimed at completing a three-week Grand Tour he could lack the endurance to drag himself through the hardest stages, but he wouldn't be contesting the intermediate sprints if he didn't at least think he had a chance of making it to Paris.

  

Other sprinters could yet still emerge as contenders for the jersey, Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier (both Alpecin-Fenix) are sharing the lead sprinter role so far in the race, splitting their points. Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic) has rolled back the clock to his fighting best, while Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) has had bad luck with crashes to date. 

The non-pure sprinters could contend for green, but the way the points are set out this year favours the pure sprinters, particularly after the opening pair of hilly finishes in Brittany. Sagan and Matthews do have opportunities on stages 7 and 14, though they are hilly stages and see just 30 points for the winner.

Another spot for the likes of Matthews, Sagan and Colbrelli are the intermediate sprints that come after tricky climbs. In 2021, stages 9, 10, 16 and 18 look like potential spots where Sagan/Matthews/Colbrelli could slip away into the break, or at least be a lot more comfortable sprinting for the points than more traditional sprinters. Each represents a potential swing of 20 points, but it's looking an increasingly hard ask, even this early in the race. 

The Tour de France continues with Stage 7, the longest of the race at 249 kilometres, with a hilly kick in the back section of the stage that looks set to suit the Ardennes classics specialists and strong sprinters. Watch on SBS, SBS On Demand from 2030 AEST and earlier on the SKODA Tour Tracker from 1850 AEST.


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4 min read
Published 2 July 2021 at 3:38am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS