Points leader Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) narrowly avoided being eliminated from the Tour de France yesterday when he finished outside the time limit on the 18th stage.
The Manxman, who was docked 20 points, can count himself lucky to still be in green, as race rules dictate that those finishing outside the limit – on this occasion 33:07 back from the stage winner – are kicked off the Tour.
However, on this occasion he was part of a group of 88 riders who finished 35:50 adrift of stage winner Andy Schleck. It would have taken a brave race jury to disqualify them all, particularly as the gruppetto contained big names like Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd.
Rules state that in exceptional circumstances, such as crashes or other major incidents, riders can simply be docked points. And this was the case, with all 88 riders docked 20 points, dealing a blow to the green jersey hopes of Cavendish, Gilbert and Hushovd.
Cavendish’s biggest rival for green in Paris, Jose Joaquin Rojas, led the first gruppetto home inside the time limit, escaping a point deduction and cutting his deficit to the HTC Highroad rider to just 15 points.
"It's disappointing," Cavendish said after the finish. "We thought we were way out of the time limit with quite a long way to go but it was a lot closer and had we known, it might have made a difference. We just have to think about tomorrow now."
This story originated on Cyclingnews.