With the Tour de France now a fading memory, the Olympic programme complete and the Vuelta a Espana fast approaching on the horizon, the VeloVoices team is again reviewing the performances of our selected riders to watch in 2012. I’m following three of the sport’s fastest men: reigning world champion Mark Cavendish, Argos-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel and Liquigas-Cannondale’s Peter Sagan. They have experienced differing fortunes since we last checked in on them pre-Tour, so here’s a quick run-down of how they have been doing over the past few weeks.
Mark Cavendish (Sky)
Results: Won three stages at the Tour de France, fourth in points classification. 29th in Olympics road race.
WorldTour ranking: 27th, 128 points.
By his high standards, July proved to be a disappointing month for the world champion. An early sprint victory on stage two at the Tour de France demonstrated his ability to win without a dedicated train, but also underlined the fact that for the first time in his career he was not his team’s top priority, as Sky focussed on delivering Bradley Wiggins to overall victory. There then followed a 15-stage drought – the longest of Cavendish’s Tour career – before a bravura will-he-won’t-he chase-down of a disintegrating break saw him taste victory again in Brive on stage 18.
3 weeks of suffering physically, mentally & emotionally starts today. But the image of Champs Élysées is the most beautiful target in sport.
— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) June 30, 2012
Victory on the Champs-Élysées on the final stage for the fourth consecutive year was no surprise, but the manner of victory – a long solo sprint from 350 metres out – was. He now has 23 Tour stage wins, putting him fourth on the all-time list. [Okay, okay, you can stop drooling now – Ed.]
The real target for July, though, was a gold medal in the road race at his ‘home’ Olympics in London. However, GB’s five-man team could not control the race on their own and a large breakaway got away and stayed away, leaving a disappointed Cavendish to finish in the main field, a distant 29th.
Since then, he has taken out his disappointment on the road, winning three criterium races before joining the BBC TV team to provide analysis on their track cycling coverage. However, the big topic of conversation surrounding Cavendish at the moment is who he will ride for next season. Sky was a useful (and lucrative) marriage of convenience to help him prepare for the Olympics, but could he perhaps be sporting the colours of Omega Pharma-Quick Step next season? We shall see.
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano)
Results: Withdrew on stage five of the Tour de France with stomach problems. Currently racing at the Eneco Tour – one stage win so far.
WorldTour ranking: N/A. 10th in UCI Europe Tour rankings, 267 points.
It has been a quiet couple of months for the young German sprinter, who entered the Tour de France with high hopes of securing a sprint victory which would announce himself on cycling’s biggest stage. However he never figured in the action after being laid low with stomach problems which – how shall we describe it? – left him wishing he was wearing AG2R’s brown shorts.
Or, as he put it:
@gemmadd belly is ok, but full with water from the bottles. There seems to be a problem with my drain. Hope the plumber can fix it. 😉
— Marcel Kittel (@marcelkittel) July 3, 2012
He spent much of the first few days taking suppositories, downing as much water as his body could hold and constantly limping home off the back of the bunch before finally admitting defeat and climbing off early on stage five.
Kittel has returned to WorldTour action this week at the Eneco Tour where, fully recovered, he took victory at a canter in the bunch sprint at the end of Monday’s opening stage.
Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Results: Won three stages at the Tour de France, first in points classification. 34th in Olympics road race.
WorldTour ranking: 5th, 351 points.
Slovak Fastvak successfully parlayed his blistering Tour of California and Tour de Suisse form into his debut Tour de France, where he justified his status as the favourite for the green jersey by winning three of the first six road stages, including the difficult uphill finishes of stages one and three.
A hat-trick of subsequent second places and some impressive climbing to secure intermediate points in the mountains were more than enough to deliver a commanding and richly deserved victory in the points competition.
Like Cavendish, Sagan was one of the big favourites for the Olympics road race, but never figured at the sharp end of the action and eventually finished 34th in the main bunch, not far behind Mark Cavendish and several other frustrated sprinters.