Mark Cavendish was robbed of his win on stage 6 of the Tour of California, plain and simple. Yes, he received some help from his team car when he crashed in the final 10km's, but anyone who has ridden in the pro peloton knows how hard it is to move up, not only through the peloton, but also through all the team cars in the final few km's of a race, especially when everybody is going 35+mph.
This isn't a case of a rider hanging onto a car door and getting towed right back up to the front of the field. Far from that. Look at the photo. Cavendish is lying on the ground after crashing, lucky that the whole field didn't run him over and put him in a hospital bed.
After the crash, Cavendish was probably 15-30 seconds behind the field and yes, he probably got significant help getting back to the tail end of the race caravan from his team car. But, that sort of practice is totally OK in Europe in pro racing because just regaining the back of the caravan after a crash is viewed as"righting a wrong". A crash is viewed as an unfortunate circumstance and pacing back on is just the way to reverse the circumstance.
Once Cavendish regained the caravan, he had to work his way back to the peloton past 30 or so team cars. When he got to the back of the peloton after risking his life amongst the cars, he just had to work his way past 100+ racers all going wheel to wheel at 35+mph to end up at the front. Simply done, you say. Not!
So, this wasn't a case of Cavendish getting a free ride to the line from his team car. Far from it. He had to pick himself up, sort himself out, work his way through 30+ cars and 100+ riders going flat out. That's what sprinters do and that's what Cavendish did. Taking the win away from the plucky Brit is like taking Muhamed Ali's heavyweight crown away from him for fighting. It was a great win under the most difficult of circumstances. The sprinters are the showmen of our sport. Let them demonstrate why it takes a bit of madness, a bit of luck and a bit of savvy to win the bunch kick. We love it!
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