I have written several times about George Hincapie's narrow miss at the Tour's yellow jersey and the efforts made my Team Garmin-Slipstream to chase him down. One of the interesting side-stories of this whole affair is the fact that in Team Columbia's attempt to slow things down in the peloton so that George would be able to get the yellow jersey, they accidentally created a situation which ended up costing them the green jersey.
Obviously, Columbia didn't set out to lose the green jersey just to get the yellow one. In fact, I would bet that if it would have been know beforehand that trying to get George the yellow would have cost Mark Cavendish the green Team Columbia would have behaved differently. It is just one of those ironies that happens at the Tour. A few years ago, in Miguel Indurain's attempt to win the final TT at the Tour, he went so fast that he eliminated his brother who ultimately missed the time cut. That's irony.
What happened with Team Columbia is that, because they were trying to slow the peloton down, they didn't crank their leadout train into it's normal high gear with Mark Renshaw winding it up inside the final kilometer. Instead Team Columbia tried to run their leadout train in slow motion, so to speak, which allowed a number of riders, including Thor Hushovd to be in contention to sprint with Mark Canvedish as the line approached.
It was clear, watching the TV coverage, that Cavendish was trying to figure out where Hushovd, his only rival for the green jersey, was during that slow-mo sprint. Unfortunately, when Cavendish looked over his right shoulder to see Hushovd, he moved slightly to his right. This is a normal occurrence when riding a bike.When you look over your right shoulder, especially if you have stiff arms, then you move to the right. The same thing happens if you look left except that you drift left.
So, what happened to Cavendish was a pretty normal reaction. Unfortunately, it looked to the judges that Mark intentionally moved right, in what is called "hooking", to impede Hushovd's forward progress. I have seen enough "hooks" in my day to know when a rider is "hooking" another rider. What I saw Cavendish do to Hushovd just didn't look like a hook. But, that's not the way the judges saw it and they relegated Cavendish to last place in that sprint, costing him enough sprint points to ultimately cost him the green jersey.
If Team Columbia had ridden a normal, full-speed, sprint then this problem would never have occurred. Cavendish would most likely have beaten Hushovd that day and also for the green jersey. One of the things I admire about Team Columbia is that they never publicly regretted their decision to try to help George get the yellow jersey even if it did end up costing them the green jersey. They realize that the Tour is full of ironic(as opposed to iconic) moments and this was one of them.
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