Mark Cavendish got off his bike near the Columbia team bus black and dirty after 200km in the rain on stage 13 of the Tour de France.
His mood was just as dark after Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) had snatched back the green points jersey with an impressive ride on the climbs and sixth at the finish in Colmar behind team mate Heinrich Haussler.
Cavendish brought home the second gruppetto, 23-44 behind Haussler.
Hushovd now leads the green jersey competition by five points. He has 205, while Cavendish has 200. Jose Rojas (Caisse d’Epargne) is third with 116, proving beyond doubt that the green jersey is a fight between Cav and the Might Thor.
Cavendish understandably did not want to talk after he climbed off his bike and went straight on to the Columbia bus, with the door closing behind him. Fortunately he didn’t hear the Norwegian cycling fans signing their national anthem and cheering for Hushovd outside the Cervelo bus.
Team manager Rolf Aldag was left to explain how Team Columbia will try and wrestle back the green jersey before Paris. Perhaps starting with a stage win in Besancon on Saturday.
“There’s not much you can do when Thor was so strong like that,” he told Cycling Weekly.
“He was really fighting all day on the climbs and had the benefit of the good guys not wanting to show their legs and race. Nobody really wanted to break their necks on the descents in those conditions and Thor fought to get back on and that’s why he deserves to have the jersey back.”
“We considered going on the attack on the last climb to eliminate him again but Tony Martin didn’t feel too good, so we decided not to risk losing our GC guy to take away a few points from Thor. We decided to live with the situation. It’s no big drama and we still want to win stages. There are still possible sprints out there. One is in Paris which is pretty sure and perhaps in Besancon.”
Saturday’s stage could also be a chance to pull back some precious points.
“We’ll see if there’s a chance of the stage ending in a sprint and then perhaps work so that it happens. The focus will be on winning the stage as much as scoring points,” Aldag said.
The 199km stage includes two category three climbs and lots of other small hills. That makes it ideal for a breakaway but there are also two sprints before the first climb, after 29km and 67km. With 6, 4 and 2 points up for grabs at each of those, Columbia and Cavendish will perhaps try and pull back a few points and then do whatever they can to keep the race together for the sprint to the line.
After that Columbia will have to try and stop Hushovd scoring other points in other intermediate sprints in the Alps.
With Cavendish so fast in the sprints but Hushovd strong on the climbs, the fight for the green jersey will probably go down to the final sprint on the Champs Elysees next Sunday.