Tour de France: Could the green jersey be decided in the mountains?
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tour de France: Could the green jersey be decided in the mountains?

by Ben Atkins at 6:15 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Points deduction for Cavendish gives José Joaquín Rojas hope

mark cavendishWith Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) proving the fastest sprinter in this year’s Tour de France, with four stage victories in the race so far, his opponents in the green points jersey competition are having to come up with different ways of beating him. The tactic that the Movistar team of José Joaquín Rojas, who is second in the standings, is using is to use the Manxman’s relative weakness in the climbs to its advantage.

In a plan concocted on Monday’s rest day, the Spanish team is unashamedly trying to get Cavendish eliminated by making him finish outside the time limit on one of the big Alpine stages. While the HTC-Highroad sprinter is still in the race after the stage to the Col du Galibier, but things are beginning to go Rojas’ way.

Cavendish was outside the time limit, set at 33’07”, as was third place in the competition Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto); but Rojas was not.

"It's a little bit of a surprise,” said Cavendish to ITV4. “There's always going to be a lot of people but we were expecting maybe just to get in the time limit; but we were just outside; a couple of minutes.

Luckily for Cavendish though, the ‘autobus’ group that he was part of, crossing the line 35’40” behind stage winner Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek), was made up of more than half the peloton. Race commissaires have the discretion to allow riders outside the time limit if they number more than 20% of the peloton.

“That's a shame; that’s how it goes, but because the group was so big we don’t get eliminated,” he explained.

The negative side effect for Cavendish though, and the positive one for Rojas, is that, while neither rider was anywhere close to getting any points at either the intermediate sprint or the stage finish, the gap between the two has narrowed.

“I lose twenty points from the… well everybody in the group loses twenty points,” said Cavendish. “That puts me only 15 ahead of Rojas, who was in the group ahead. That’s how it goes; at least we get to start the stage tomorrow.”

With a partial success to its plan in the first big Alpine stage, Movistar will doubtless hope for as much luck on the second to Alpe d’Huez. Should the same thing happen again it would put Rojas in green before the race reaches Paris on Sunday.

With Rojas climbing relatively well – he crossed the Col d’Izoard with the peloton, while the rest of the sprinters were already forming the ‘autobus’. Should he do the same over the Galibier on the way to Alpe d’Huez, he could be in with a chance of taking some points at the intermediate sprint, which comes at the base of the final climb in Bourg d’Oissans.

Cavendish is the outstanding favourite for the final stage on the Champs-Elysées for the third straight year. If Rojas manages to get his nose in front of the Manx Missile before then, it will make that victory all the more important if he is to secure his first green jersey.

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