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July 08, 2009

Beating Cav

Cavendish_250.jpg
Cavendish image courtesy Nike
With another flat stage on tap Wednesday, you can bet there's one thought on the mind of most of the directeurs sportif in the Tour tonight: How do we beat Cavendish?

He's 2-for-2 in the sprint, and neither finish was particularly close. I think one interpretation of Columbia's display on Stage 2 is that their “realistic GC goals” are to win the green jersey, and bunches of stages, like they did at the Tour de Suisse.

You can group successful sprinters on a continuum from “pure speed” to ”pure train.” Robbie McEwen may be the current sprinter who is farthest to the “pure speed” end of things. McEwen has often been successful even without a leadout train, by shadowing the guys who have one, and beating them in the final 250 meters. Alessandro Petacchi, on the other hand, is most successful with a long lead-out train that whittles down the field in the last few kilometers, with Petacchi essentially sprinting from the front for many of his wins.

Here comes Cavendish and he's got bushels of both kick and train. Columbia has powerful and experienced porters in Mick Rogers, George Hincapie, Mark Renshaw and Tony Martin, and they've got coal to spare for a formidable train. Cavendish himself has shown he's got a maximum speed nobody can match, and even when he's had to go to soon, he's had the stamina to make it to the line.

So how to beat the Manx Missile?

Since it appears nobody has a kick to match Cavendish, teams are left with two choices. First, disrupt the team's buildup to the line. We've already seen riders trying to get on board the Columbia train, leading to some pushing and shoving, without success. Competing sprinters can't launch their sprint early, because they would have to outsprint Renshaw AND Cavendish. Ocasionally, on a broad run-in, you'll see competing trains, with swirling, snarling tentacles of riders, splitting and joining as the line comes up. I think Milram tried this on Stage 2, leading from about 4k down to 2k to ride, but then Columbia hit the afterburners, and Milram's train disintegrated. We'll see if anybody else gives this a go.

A second approach is just not to let the stage come to a sprint. Send breaks early, and send them often. When they get caught (heck, before they get caught), send some more. We've already seen that nobody wants to help Columbia bring back escapes, so make them do it all day. If they won't chase, there's no stage win for Cavendish. Unfortunately for the pack, after the TTT, Astana would now probably help out with the chase duties, to maintain their stranglehold on the GC standings.

So what do you think? How can the pros stop the Tour from becoming a Cav-alanche?

Also:

CyclingNews | Ciolek: 'Cav Not Unbeatable'

BikeRadar.com | Brains not brawn required to beat Cavendish

CyclingWeekly | Tour de France analysis: Why Columbia must expect to do bulk of the chasing

forum.cyclingnews.com | Keys for Farrar to beat Cavendish at the line?

Posted by Frank Steele on July 8, 2009 in Mark Cavendish | Permalink

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Comments

Well, Stage 3 was an example of the other teams trying to beat Cavendish by forcing his lead-out men to work hard very early; I imagine the thinking was that if they were softened up by the time they hit the final 2 or 3 km, Cavendish wouldn't get the kind of launch he did in Stage 2.

Didn't quite work out the way the other teams planned.

Posted by: re:cycling at Jul 8, 2009 3:39:31 AM

I firmly believe that to beat a rider like Cav you have to attack attack attack.

He doesn't have the legs to win from 2k and certainly not from 5k, whilst some of the big TT boys definitely do.

If Stage 3 had have happened later in the race instead of the day before the TTT & with Saxo wanting to protect the maillot jaune, otherwise somebody Cancellara would have had the power to go from 2 to 5k and make Cav a non entity.

Posted by: Brian at Jul 8, 2009 5:23:01 AM

Quick, organize the 2009 Summer Olympic Games!!

Or start spreading that dreaded Mountain Fever virus (which selectively affects sprinters) as soon as they hit the Pyrenees.

Posted by: Nancy Toby of Lanterne Rouge Blog at Jul 8, 2009 8:30:35 AM

I think Farrar and Boonen still have a shot - Boonen was diverted in the stage 2 crash and both riders were left out in the stage 3 split.

Posted by: mark at Jul 8, 2009 9:06:51 AM

its possible. i've only ever seen 1 rider ever come around cavendish and win, tyler farrar!
but if cav gets his usually perfect leadout he cant be beat.
he has to be forced to go earlier than he wants and that could be done with 2 sprint teams. one has to sacrafice with an early attack that he must follow, while the other times their jump perfectly.
he sure is fun to watch!

Posted by: grafi at Jul 8, 2009 1:55:20 PM

You are being very unfair to Cav just because he is talented ITS UNFAIR!!

Posted by: M Kneen at Jul 20, 2009 4:54:06 AM

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