Stage 11 of the Tour de France was won by the green jersey leader Peter Sagan (Tinkoff). The overall race leader, Chris Froome (Team Sky) finished in 2nd place and Maciej Bodnar (Tinkoff) rounded out the stage podium.
Even before today's 162km stage from Carcassonne to Montpellier got underway, the nerves among the peloton was at an all-time high with wind speeds being recorded at 70km/h out on the course. A mostly flat stage meant it was a good opportunity for the sprinters, but echelons were almost inevitable and it was going to be a stressful battle to stay near the front of the bunch.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were doing well to keep our sprint ace Mark Cavendish protected and positioned right up behind the yellow jersey all stage. The much talked about echelons began forming with around 90km to go but no single team really took command in the wind to drive open any significant gaps. At one stage around 80 riders had been distanced by 45" from the front portion of the race, but they were able to regain contact well before the finish.
Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Bernhard Eisel were always in close proximity to Cavendish, with the quartet not once being caught out in the wind. With 10km to go, everything was looking good for a big bunch sprint and our African Team were hoping Cavendish could pick up his 4th stage win of this year's race. Just when everyone thought a bunch sprint was assured, the world champion, Sagan, tried one last time to split the race in the wind. Bodnar, Froome and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) joined this opportunistic attack with 8km left to race.
As this 4 rider move pushed out a 10 second lead, Eisel went to the head of the peloton to contribute to the chase. Before our Austrian powerhouse could even do a proper turn on the front though, disaster struck for our African Team as Cavendish was taking out of contention when another rider rode into him, breaking his rear gearing mechanism. Plan B then had to be put into action with Boasson Hagen and Janse van Rensburg relying on other teams to bring the late escape back before sprinting for a top result.
There was just too much fire power in the lead quartet though and they would not be stopped from deciding the stage, 6 seconds ahead of the peloton. After Thomas sat up in the final few meters, the best position on offer was 4th place and Boasson Hagen did will to take 7th on the line and Janse van Rensburg placed 11th.
Roger Hammond - Sport Director
The guys were looking really good, with Mark always in the front. He said he was feeling good and seemed to be on a really good day but then somebody hit him on the rear mech. He got stuck in the 15 and the rear mech stopped working, so with 5km to go it was too late to change bikes and too late to do anything about it. It's unfortunate but it's one of the things about bunch sprinting, you don't need good luck but you just don't need bad luck and today we had a bit of bad luck.