Former Tour de France winner Chris Froome hailed Mark Cavendish’s comeback victory as “phenomenal” after the pair had raced Wednesday’s stage five 16 mile individual time-trial between Change and Laval. A four-time champion before a serious accident in 2019, Froome said it was great to see fellow Briton Cavendish overcome his own health issues to win after a period in the wilderness. Recognised as the Tour’s all-time-great sprinter, Cavendish claimed Tuesday’s flat stage five years after his previous win on the world’s greatest race to take his tally to a jaw-dropping 31 stage wins. Cavendish has overcome Epstein-Barr virus twice and even hinted at retiring last October.
“It’s amazing to see Cav do that, everyone had written him off, so really it’s amazing for him to do that,” Froome said at Wednesday’s finish line.
“It was quite something to see him prove people wrong.
“The Tour de France is where you measure yourself as a professional cyclist.
“So for Cav to have come back and win another stage of the Tour, and possibly go and win another one in the next few days is just phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal,” he added.
Cavendish completed the course in 23:08, with Froome a little slower at 24:04.
Froome is back on the Tour roster after a two-year gap.
‘Stressful few days’
The Israel Start-Up Nation rider said he had enjoyed the time-trial, an excercise he once excelled at, but on Wednesday took a leisurely pace due to injuries picked up on stage one for much of the technically challenging course.
“It was nice to open up and push it out in sections, but I only gave about 85 percent today, just to escape the time trap,” he said of the cut-off time for straggling riders who get thrown off the race if they go too slowly.
“Today was nice to be on my own after a few stressful days,” he said after he fell badly on Saturday’s stage.
“Looking around the peloton I can’t remember ever seeing so many injured riders, everyone’s covered in bandages.”
Asked if something could be changed to alleviate all the accidents, Froome said it was a difficult issue to resolve.
“Much more needs to be done in terms of approval of courses before they are allowed to go ahead,” he said.
“Some things are just obvious. You can see an accident coming before you get to it, everyone tries to get ahead before that point and that in itself can cause accidents.”
Wednesday’s time-trial was considered critical to the eventual overall standings of this year’s Tour and it follows four days of explosive action.
Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel, the grandson of seven-time former Tour stage winner and French fan-favourite Raymond Poulidor, is in the leader’s yellow jersey with overall contenders Julian Alaphilippe, champion Tadej Pogacar and Richard Carapaz among the top six.
The race has yet to arrive at the Alps or the Pyrenees before a transfer back to Paris for the final stage on the Champs-Elysees on July 18.
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini