Who is your favorite rider in the pro peloton? I have not been bashful about naming Team Columbia's Mark Cavendish as one of my faves. I love to climb and find the climbing stages of the Tour to be super exciting. The attacks Contador launched against Rasmussen at last year's Tour were exceptionally gripping. It was mano y mano, no holds barred riding. But, there is just something about Cavendish that transcends the mountains and puts a flatlander on my list.
I guess it was at the 2008 Tour of California when Mark came back from a horrendous crash on the stage into Santa Clarita to win the stage. And, yes, he is still the winner in my book. If you have been watching the Tour, there have been numerous instances of pacing back with a car; George Hincapie got paced back in the final 10km of the stage today. For some reason, the officials in the US have ignored the spirit of the rule and continue to penalize riders for behavoir that is accepted and commonplace in the European pro peloton.
Regardless of whether you think Cavendish won that stage, the performance he gave in those closing kilometers was nothing short of spectacular and it opened my eyes to a huge talent. To be a top-notch field sprinter you have to be lightening fast, but you also have to be a bit crazy as well. If you have 42cm handlebars you are always looking for 43cm openings to squeeze through and when you are going 40+mph everything looks like you are in hyperspace. Clearly, effective field sprinting is part physical, part mental and Cavendish has them both.
Then you have today's finish when the Frenchies were finally foiled and Cavendish brought home the bacon! In a post race interview with Gerard Porte on French TV, Mark thanked his team for all the hard work and called it a team victory. OK so maybe that is the standard line, but how about in Giro when he looked back and when he realized there was no one behind them, he gave the stage win to his leadout man, Andre Greipel. That's class!
Cavendish was also asked if he would be leaving the Tour early to prepare for the Olympics where he is the odds on favorite to take home the gold in the Madison race on the track. Mark replied that it wouldn't be fair to his team or the race organizers if he left early and his goal is to make it to Paris. To be fair he did mention that the mountains looked pretty daunting, but the climbs in the Giro were much harder and he survived them. Should we start rehearsing God Save the Queen for the Champs Elysees?
OK. So I have been spouting off about one of my favorite riders in the pro peloton, I am certain you all out there have a favorite or two as well. Let's here who you all like and why.
ps - somebody should tell Nicholas Vogondy that you are way more aero in the drops than on top of the hoods. Maybe he was totally cooked but when you are trying to win a stage, you gotta do just about everything right and trying to power to the finish sitting up with your hands on the hoods is not optimal.