Cavendish won Stage 3 because his team (Columbia-HTC) worked the hardest for it. Interviewed by Robbie Ventura on Versus just after the finish, Columbia’s George Hincapie, in his 14th year in the Tour peloton, had some pointed words for teams that didn’t join in the hunt:
Ventura: Was that the plan of attack? To drop the hammer as soon as the headwinds hit?
Hincapie: Actually, we were expecting to get a little help from the other teams. Nobody wanted to race. You know, it made us a bit angry. We decided if we saw a moment, you know, we were gonna go, no matter what.
RV: Was that more to lessen the odds for Cavendish for his victory or was it more to set G.C. hopes for the likes of your, ah, G.C. men?
GH: It was more just to make the race happen. Nobody wanted to race. As soon as we started pulling, none of the sprinter teams would help us, and uh you know, we kind of found that a bit insulting, so we decided to go.
RV: What team were you most frustrated with? What team do you think had the responsibility today?
GH: There’s no reason to name names, but, you know, the sprinters teams responsibilities are to chase down breakaways and make the race happen. This is the Tour de France. You want excitement. You want to race as hard as possible for every race, so uh I think our team did it today and it was an awesome team effort.
That’s right: It was awesome. Starting 25 kilometers out, Team Columbia started riding its own team time trial; well, almost–it was impressive to see the Astana and Skil-Shimano and Milram riders rotating through the front of the group to help keep it away from the peloton.
I think what Hincapie is showing off a little bit of tactical anger here Sure, all the sprinters’ teams had an interest in chasing down the breakaway. But after watching what Cavendish does, they were all probably thinking the same thing: This race will come down to the last 3 or 4 kilometers. Let Columbia pay the price to pull the escape back and maybe weaken them a little bit so the lead-out for Cavendish isn’t as dominating as it was, say, yesterday. The brilliance and daring of Columbia’s move was to take up the challenge: Gee, if you’re going to make us work hard, we might as well really work and see if we can get a big payoff. A huge, concerted effort from the peloton would have brought them back. Nobody had it in them to try that.
Be interesting to see whether Columbia’s effort costs them in the team trial tomorrow in Stage 4. I’m guessing that they’re fired up and they turn in a top four or five performance.