Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) labelled the finish to Stage 4 of the 2023 Tour de France as “carnage” after three crashes on the motor-racing circuit in Nogaro.
The irony was that the day had been almost totally becalmed until that point, but the intensity ratcheted up a notch in the final few kilometres and it triggered rider upon rider hitting the deck as the pack made their way round the tarmac track.
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Explaining his view of the chaos, Cavendish told Eurosport GCN: “That was carnage.
“Every team would’ve had a plan for that final and I bet you there wasn’t any that went right apart from Jumbo-Visma getting the guys through those narrow roads early.
“It was a real mix of riders in the final and I was constantly analysing who was there, who had other teammates.
“When I saw Mads [Pedersen] (Trek–Segafredo) had [Jasper] Stuyven with him, he usually goes early, there was a headwind finish, long straight, wide road, I thought I’d use that. But they just didn’t go.
“At 350 metres I thought maybe just go now but I was waiting for them to go and they didn’t. In the end, they all got the jump and it was about trying to get the best position.
“I’m most worried about Luis Leon Sanchez ((Astana Qazaqstan), I think he’s gone down so I’m going to see if he’s alright.”
‘It was a crash fest’ – McEwen
Robbie McEwen, a 12-time stage winner on the Tour, shared how he saw the finish, giving particular praise to Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), who once again gave Philipsen the perfect lead-out.
“Van der Poel made sense of the chaos, Philipsen was in the wheel with Cavendish out on the left,” McEwen began on Eurosport’s The Breakaway.
“It was a crash fest.
“Philipsen goes two from two but Caleb Ewan was so close. They stayed cool and calm, stuck together and got the lead out right. Philipsen into the headwind had just enough left in the tank and Caleb Ewan (Lotto–Dstny) ran out of arm length. Philipsen is just so strong and doesn’t crack in the sprint.
“There were a lot of riders who are so fresh after such an easy day and they probably thought ‘I’ll have a crack at the sprint today’. So, there were a lot more riders getting up and amongst it.
“The pure sprinters had more riders in between them and there was a bang of handlebars, Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal–Quick-Step) went down, another crash with 700m to go on that final corner.
“People said yesterday a curving finish was too dangerous, but two riders came down in the dead straight finish to the line [today].
“But it was exciting to watch nonetheless and the guy that has proven to be the strongest in the Tour – Jasper Philipsen – wins again.”
Stage 5 could be another potential stage for the sprinters, but with the bumpy profile it looks more like a day for a breakaway, as the riders enter the Pyrenees.
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