By all accounts, Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) struggled mightily on Stage 14. With five categorized climbs on yesterday’s docket, several teammates were needed to pace Cavendish to the finish line before the time cut.
Yet through all the adversity in the Pyrenees, the character and characters of Cavendish and his charges were revealed on the 187 kilometer Stage 15 from Limoux to Montpellier.
Another classic sprinter’s stage, and the final one before the fabled sprint on the Champs Ellysees, HTC-Highroad took up the majority of the pace-making to bring back the early break. Once the catch was made, the team worked in perfect unison to deliver Cavendish to the line.
Despite numerous late attacks and attempts by other teams to take control at the front, the boys based out of San Luis Obispo never faltered. Business-like, Mark Renshaw squirted through a sea of chaos and provided the launching pad for the Missile from Man.
Cavendish would take his fourth win of the 98th Tour de France, ahead of late bid by Tyler Farrar (Team Garmin-Cervelo) and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD). Italy's Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannodale) would finish a close fourth.
Results - Stage 15
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo
3. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
There was no change in the General Classification. With two relatively innocuous mountain stages following the race's second rest day, the race for the maillot jaune is sure to come down to Stage 18, 19, and 20.
Can Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) limit his losses enough not be overtaken in the Stage 20 Individual Time Trial? With two cards to play, is this Tour the Schleck brothers to lose? Can reigning champion, Alberto Contador, get free of his rivals and mount a serious comeback...does he have the legs after winning the Giro d'Italia? If this race comes down to the ITT, is it Cadel Evans' to lose?
Stayed tuned as all will be revealed at week's end.
General Classification After Stage 15
1. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
2. Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek - 0:01:49
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team - 0:02:06
4. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek - 0:02:15
5. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale - 0:03:16
6. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi - 0:03:44
7. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard - 0:04:00
8. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD - 0:04:01
9. Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo - 0:05:46
10. Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
Jersey Leaders After Stage 15
maillot jaune - Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
maillot vert - Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad
maillot a pois rouges - Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
maillot blanc - Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling
Quick Stepping Through The Tour - Terpstra Most Combative
After all the climbing in the Pyrenees the riders covered a flat stage over almost 200 kilometers today. The 15th stage was just started when a group of five riders attacked. Niki Terpstra tried his luck together with Michail Ignatiev, Samuel Dumoulin, Mickael Delage and Anthony Delaplace. The five escapees didn`t open up a big gap as the peloton kept the pace high. The maximum advantage of Terpstra and his companions was only 4 minutes. “In the break we collaborated very well. The wind in the first part of the race was at our backs and so it made things a bit easier. When Ignatiev took off I saw that no one was reacting. So I attacked and I followed him”, said Terpstra. The two escapees were chased by the peloton, which was only a minute behind them.
With 6 kilometers to go Terpstra attacked again. “Then I found the strength to bust forward alone, but the altimetry in the last kilometers definitely didn’t help me. I’m satisfied anyway that I got the prize for combativeness. It’s a good result, that’s a major payoff for me and the team, for all the hard work we’ve been doing these days. We’re always very active and this is a prize for our guts and drive after the first week, which was marked by several falls", Terpstra commented after the stage.
After Terpstra was caught the bunch sprint in the streets of Montpellier were inevitable. Mark Cavendish won his fourth stage outsprinting Tyler Farrar and Alessandro Petacchi. Gerald Ciolek finished in the top-10 again, our German sprinter ended in 7th place."In the sprint there were some contacts that cost me a few positions. But I did my best. Maybe I could have made it into the first 5, but after the problems I had these last few days I’m happy with this. For us sprinters there won’t be other chances, if not in Paris. I’ll do my best to be there next Sunday and give a good final sprint.”
Next: Rest Day 2; Stage 16 - Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Gap (163km)
Photos: (top: Michael Steele/Getty Images; bottom: © Tim de Waele - TDWSport.com)