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July 4, 2016 – Speed king Mark Cavendish hit out at the Sky team of Tour de France champion Chris Froome for making sprint finishes dangerous. Cavendish won Monday’s third stage of the Tour in a paper-thin finish ahead of Andre Greipel. It was his 28th Tour stage win and second in three days this year, putting him joint second on the all-time stage win list.
But after yellow jersey holder Peter Sagan called on cycling bosses to change the rules to make sprint finishes safer, Cavendish said the problem was teams like Froome’s Sky trying to mix it with the sprinters’ squads. Sagan had said the rule neutralising the final 3km needed to be changed to try to get overall contenders out of the way.
“To be fair it’s not really the 3km rule that causes it (the danger), it’s the mentality. Like Sky were in there today,” said Cavendish.
“I think the mentality has changed a bit in that some guys — not all GC (overall contenders) riders — in the past they used to go to the back. “Then it kind of evolved that splits happened so they didn’t want to be caught behind the split. “But now some riders actively want to be ahead of the split. It’s not about not wanting to be caught out, they want to be up there and hope there’s a split to get a few seconds.
“I don’t think it’s to do with the course, it’s a rider thing.” Froome had been right up with the sprinters until the last few hundred metres where he faded to 22nd overall on the stage, with his main overall rival Quintana stuck to his back wheel. Yet another of the main favorites, Alberto Contador, finished 77th and didn’t lose any time. After winning Sunday’s second stage, Sagan had criticized riders in general for not racing in a safe way. He said that they “don’t care about their life” and that they “lose the brain” causing “stupid crashes”.
Cavendish agreed, although he said it was potential earnings that were the driving force. “I saw the comments Pete made yesterday, he’s got a point,” said Cavendish. “But the problem is the stakes are so high in cycling, there’s more money and unfortunately he earns so much money that guys want to do well to emulate the money he earns. So they’re going to take risks to do that.”
For Sagan it was a question of extending the neutralized zone to allow sprinters’ teams to race unmolested. Currently, the final three kilometers are neutralized in the sense that someone caught out in a crash or because of a mechanical problem after that point will not be penalized with a loss of time, even if they cross the line some time after the rest of the group they were riding in at the time of their issue.
“I want to ask the UCI (cycling’s world governing body) if it’s possible to turn back the rules of the last three kilometers, of neutralizing, that’s my question,” said Sagan. “Because I think it will be better for cycling, for our safety because there are a lot of GC riders here who want to make a good performance. When there are climbs it’s purely the legs that decide who is good and who is not good, but now for the first stages they (the overall contenders) want to ride with the sprinters for the sprint. “I don’t want to fight with sprinters and also GC riders. In the last 3km it’s very dangerous, everybody is taking risks because they don’t want to be dropped from the sprinters because if there is a gap or a flat tire it takes 6sec or 30sec.”