Mark Cavendish lost his first head-to-head sprint against German André Greipel at the Tour de France today in Carmaux. He went long after his HTC-Highroad team worked to keep control of the attackers, but his former team-mate and rival, Greipel snuck past.
“I’m happy for him,” Cavendish told press standing at his team’s bus. “I’m disappointed. I feel I made a mistake, but Greipel beat me so there’s nothing I can say about that.”
Cavendish said he “went early” but failed to commit fully.
I “kicked with 170m to go and Greipel just came past and beat me.”
Greipel was in the same HTC team with Cavendish up until December of last year. They rarely raced together, though, to maximise the team’s wins and to avoid arguments. The last time was at the 2008 Giro d’Italia, when Cavendish made his break through as a Grand Tour sprinter. He won two sprints and helped Greipel win the stage to Locarno, Switzerland.
This year, Greipel joined Belgian team Omega Pharma-Lotto and took several of Cavendish’s former helpers with him. He proved it was a smart move. He was allowed to race the Tour de France for the first time this year and today in southern France, beat Cavendish.
“Of course, he’s not always really friendly with me with his comments. This is not my level, I just try to show on my bike what I am able to do,” said Greipel in a press conference.
“I have a lot of respect for Cavendish, he’s won 17 stages in the Tour de France, but I now have one too. This is one of the best moments in my life after the birth of my two daughters.”
Their duel will continue tomorrow in Lavaur. The 167.5-kilometre stage is suited to sprinters. Cavendish will try to win his 18th Tour stage and third at this year’s race, while also keeping an eye on the green jersey points.
Finishing second today, Cavendish is now 29 points behind points leader Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index