Tour de France

Head-butting overshadows Cavendish's victory


The Tour de France is back on the road on Friday with stage 12 between Bourg-de-Peage and Mende, a distance of 210 kilometers. Andy Schlek is still leading the race, but as RFI’s Philip Turle reports from the Tour, Thursday’s stage 11 was marked by more high drama.


Britain’s Mark Cavendish would have liked to have celebrated his latest Tour de France stage win rather differently.

The rider from the Isle of Man, riding once again with panache, signed his third Tour victory so far this year in Bourg-les-Valence on Thursday. The win brings to 13 his total number of Tour victories so far.

The good news was quickly ruined after it was announced that Cavendish’s fellow team mate Mark Renshaw had been kicked out of the Tour de France for head-butting Garmin’s Tyler Farrar several times just ahead of the finishing line.

Renshaw’s behaviour prevented Tyler Farrer from winning the stage and led the jury at the Tour to remove Renshaw from the race for what it described as particularly unruly behaviour.

Renshaw explained that he was simply retaliating against what he said was a provocation by a Garmin rider, probably Julien Dean who had tried to push him into the barrier.

But head butting is not allowed in cycling, so Renshaw has been disqualified and his HTC Colombia team is now another man down after already losing Adam Hansen.

It was interesting to see how the news led to the rapid change of character of HTC Colombia’s Mark Cavendish. After breaking down in tears after his first stage win this year in Montargis, Cavendish went before the press on Thursday in an aggressive and angry mood and only offered short answers to all the questions.

He said his team did not have the same view of Renshaw’s behaviour and that he hoped some kind of compromise over the dismissal could be found.

Despite the high drama at the end of Thursday’s stage, the other main talking point amongst both riders and Tour observers was once again the heat.

Temperatures rose again to up to 35°C which makes things not only difficult for the riders but also for the thousands of spectators who have to wait for hours to see the Tour go by. Tour sponsors Nestlé say they hand out a million bottles of mineral water every year, half a million to the riders and everyone involved in the Tour and another half a million to the general public.

And Friday promises to be another scorcher. The stage takes the Tour de France from Bourg de Peage to Mende, a distance of 210 kilometers. The riders will cross from the Drome department through the Ardèche to the Lozère in what promises to be another tough ride not only due to the heat, but also due to its length.

The man still leading the Tour de France is Andy Schleck of Luxembourg who holds the overall leader’s yellow jersey. He has a 41 second advantage over two-times Tour winner Alberto Contador of Spain who is in second place.

Schlek spent a lot of time during Thursday’s ride talking to seven-times Tour winner Lance Armstrong and also to Contador. This has led to speculation that he might have been discussing the upcoming Pyrenees section of the race which looks like being the stage for a ruthless fight between the two favourites for first place.

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