Cavendish sprayed with urine by angry fans
Updated On: Jul 11 2013 12:55:38 AM CDT
The Tour de France remains one of the few prestigious events where spectators can almost reach out and touch the riders -- or throw urine on them as Mark Cavendish found out Wednesday.
The British rider, who was absolved of any wrongdoing following a collision with Tom Veelers just 24 hours earlier, was the target of an angry fan as he rode through the 33 kilometer individual time trial between Avranches and Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy.
Cycling fans are very much split over Cavendish -- with some unimpressed by his perceived arrogance and large ego, while others love his insatiable desire to win.
Cavendish refused to speak about the incident after being doused with urine by an irate spectator during an afternoon which he will quickly want to forget.
His Omega Pharm teammate Tony Martin won the 11th stage with Chris Froome retaining the yellow jersey, but it was Cavendish who was again in the limelight.
"It is disappointing to hear about one individual like that," Froome told reporters of the incident after extending his lead to three minutes and 25 seconds.
"That's one of the beauties of our sport. Anyone can come and watch at the side of the road and enjoy the excitement and really get close to the top riders in the world.
"Mark is one of the big characters in the sport, and some people love him, some people hate him.
"But to do something disrespectful like that, that's really sad. It ruins the whole atmosphere."
While it is thought to be the first time a cyclist has been assaulted in such a way during the Tour, there have been other instances where riders have been abused.
In 1975, Eddy Merckx was punched in the kidneys during his quest to claim a sixth Tour victory, while Lance Armstrong was given bodyguards in 2004 after being subjected to death threats.
Cavendish has endured a couple of miserable days, missing out on a 25th stage win on Tuesday, while slipping 103 points adrift of green jersey leader Peter Sagan.
Meanwhile, Omega Pharm team manager Patrick Lefevere revealed that Cavendish was feeling 'sad' following the incident.
"I regret this, I always felt that cycling fans were gentlemen, enthusiastic people," he told reporters
"Mark is sad, he's not upset, just sad. I cannot blame anyone, there are 100,000 or 200,000 people on the road, and one person decided to do this."
On the road, Martin claimed an expected victory in the time trial after finishing 12 seconds ahead of Froome.
Martin, who had won his previous nine time trials in all competitions, finished the course with the third fastest time ever recorded on the Tour.
But the German revealed he began to worry when Froome appeared to be challenging for victory.
"To be honest, I'd almost given up hope of the stage win," he told reporters. "It was starting to look very disappointing when I saw Chris beat my times at the intermediate check.
"I nearly started to cry. I couldn't believe it. I expected that Froome might get to within 30 seconds or something like that but not beating me at the intermediates.
"Now I'm really happy and maybe it's nicer to win this way."
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