Tour focus shifts to Cavendish

Published: Wednesday 8th July 2015 by The News Editor

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Attention turned to Mark Cavendish at the Tour de France on Wednesday after Chris Froome survived the cobbles and was content to concede the race leader’s yellow jersey.

Tony Martin, who began the day one second behind Froome, belatedly claimed a first maillot jaune of his career with victory on stage four to Cambrai after a rollercoaster start for his Etixx-QuickStep team, which is led by Cavendish.

Froome (Team Sky) had gained enough bonus seconds to deny the German on Monday, but fell 12 seconds behind in second overall after an accomplished performance across the cobbles of northern France on the 223.5-kilometre route from Seraing in Belgium.

It was an ideal scenario for Froome’s Team Sky, happy to surrender yellow. No longer required to lead the breakaway chase, the squad can relax a little ahead of an expected sprint finish on Wednesday’s 189.5km fifth stage from Arras to Amiens.

Martin’s Etixx-QuickStep squad will be expected to do much of the work, particularly as Cavendish will be looking to add to his tally of 26 Tour stage wins.

Cavendish had been favourite for victory on Sunday’s second stage to Zeeland, but the sprint was launched too early and he finished fourth, with bonus seconds denying Martin yellow.

“The last few days I missed the yellow by a few seconds,” Martin said.

“The pressure was getting more and more. Crossing the line first for the stage and also having the yellow now makes me super happy.”

Froome was expertly guided by a phenomenal effort from team-mate Geraint Thomas and looked to be making gains on two of his main rivals for overall victory as Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) missed notable splits in the bunch.

Yet the pair finished on the same time as Froome and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), the defending champion who was among the main protagonists on the six cobbled sections which came in the final 46km of the stage.

Froome’s advantage over his main rivals remains the same after all four finished on the same time. Contador is 36secs behind Froome, with Nibali 1:38 and Quintana 1:56 behind, respectively.

Froome did not even see a cobble as his Tour defence ended last year after three crashes in two days, but this time he benefited from a fine Team Sky showing.

Froome, who spent a British record 15th day in the yellow jersey, added: “It was a bonus to come out of the last cobbled section on the front with Geraint, and the legs felt good.

“It wasn’t about showing how strong I am on the cobbles, it was all about staying out of trouble.”

There was a moment of alarm for Froome when, with around 27km to go, he lost Thomas’ wheel and nudged Jacopo Guarnieri (Katusha).

“That’s hairy,” Froome said. “That’s riding on the cobbles.

“I think all the GC contenders will sleep better (now).

“Losing the yellow jersey at this stage is no big deal.

“There is still a long way to go and, as a time-trial specialist, Tony is not going to be there in the mountains.

“I was definitely happier to see it go to him than any of my GC (general classification) rivals.”

Published: Wednesday 8th July 2015 by The News Editor

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