Tour de France: Mark Cavendish starts blame game
A stormy and fractious day at the Tour de France ended with Mark Cavendish blaming his Etixx-QuickStep team-mates for his failure to win stage two to Zeeland.
A year to the day since Cavendish crashed out of the Tour in his mother's hometown of Harrogate, the 30-year-old Manxman experienced further disappointment in finishing fourth behind Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) on the 166-kilometre route from Utrecht.
Cavendish, who is still chasing the 26th Tour stage win of his career, pointed the finger at leadout man Mark Renshaw for launching his sprint too early, with 300m to go. Cavendish was overhauled by Greipel, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek) in the finishing straight across the Pijlerdam.
To rub it in, Cancellara's third place and accompanying bonus seconds saw the Swiss take the race leader's yellow jersey ahead of Tony Martin, another Etixx-QuickStep rider.
Cavendish, who would have preferred to hit the front with 200m to go, said: "I think Mark went too early and kind of left me hanging. We died.
"The day Cancellara beats me in a sprint I've gone too long. I've gassed it. It's disappointing, Tony's disappointed.
"I have just watched it back on the video and the guys behind played it perfect. I reckon I could get a job as a lead-out man for them."
There could be major repercussions for Cavendish, who is out of contract with the Belgian squad at the end of the year, as Etixx-QuickStep could have ended the day with the stage win, the points classification's green jersey and the yellow jersey.
Etixx-QuickStep team boss Patrick Lefevre said: "Cavendish stopped sprinting and this costs Tony the jersey.
"I am not happy at all. Probably this was our last chance to take the yellow jersey."
Cavendish took a different view after being questioned by the media, but may not have been aware of Lefevre's comments.
The Manxman wrote on Twitter: "If I could hang on for 3rd, I could hang on for the win... Some imbeciles think cycling is a computer game."
The peloton had been fraught with anxiety about what was to come on the North Sea coast of Holland and their worries proved well-founded as howling winds and wet weather battered the riders.
Cavendish had done the hardest part, becoming part of a 26-man lead group which also included Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), but not defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) or another favourite, Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Froome and Contador encouraged the lead group to exploit the crosswinds which tore apart the peloton. Froome finished seventh, on the same time as Greipel, and Contador 13th, four seconds behind, while Nibali and Quintana were one minute 28 seconds adrift.
Froome was excellently shepherded by two other Britons, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas, for much of the day.
"I'm just glad it worked out the way it did and I had the support from my team-mates when I really needed it," Froome said.
"We're two days down now and I couldn't have hoped for much more at this stage.
"It was chaos out there for a few minutes, with the storm, with the winds.
"One second (Nibali) was right next to me and then ... I couldn't actually believe it when I heard that he was distanced.
"This is a huge advantage for us now; to sit in this position after one flat day.
"But it's a three-week race and things do change on a daily basis.
"We're ahead today but there's lots in store for us for the rest of the week."
Froome's target is yellow in Paris on July 26, but Cancellara was merely thrilled to be in the maillot jaune at a sixth Tour after succeeding Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) in the race lead.
The Swiss will seek a successful defence in today's 159.5km third stage from Antwerp to the finish atop the category three Mur de Huy, which is only 200m long.
Cavendish, meanwhile, believes the victory, which would take him within two of Bernard Hinault's tally of 28 - the Frenchman is second only to Eddy Merckx's 34 - could come on tomorrow's fourth stage across the cobbles, or Wednesday's stage to Amiens.
"Down to Cambrai on the cobbles isn't beyond reach but the day after is more likely to be a bunch sprint," Cavendish added.
Final leading positions after Stage 2, (Utrecht - Zelande - 166km): 1 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 3hrs 29mins 03secs, 2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo at same time, 3 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing, 4 Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Etixx - Quick-Step, 5 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team, 6 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team, 7 Christopher Froome (Gbr) Team Sky, 8 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin, 9 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step, 10 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin all at same time,