Brit sprint sensation’s stunning stage win
Wednesday July 9 2008, 232km
Cholet – Chateauroux
He’s done it. Stage five at Chateauroux saw Mark Cavendish scorch through the pack of an ultra-classy stage win that confirms what we already knew: Cavendish is a sprinting genius.
Cav’s first Tour de France stage win cannot be written off as a fluke, either. Victory into a headwind on a 1.5-kilometre finishing straight by over a bike length on Oscar Freire, Erik Zabel and Thor Hushovd, particularly after accelerating to full speed from so far out, is the sort of margin that brooks no argument.
All credit, too, to Cavendish’s Columbia team. As the Manxman pointed out, even teammate Kim Kirchen sacrificed his chances of keeping the green jersey to ensure that Cavendish would be in place for his final sprint.
After upping the pace in the final few kilometres, Columbia needed to go all out in the finish, too. The last survivor from an all day break – French national champion Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) – came close to ruining Cavendish’s chances.
But there could be no answering Cav’s powerful accerlation in the final 250 metres. Try as they might, Freire and Zabel were left trailing in his wake.
Cavendish’s victory is another important milestone in the battle for clean cycling. Riding for a team which, since 2007, has been at the forefront of the battle against doping, the Briton’s emphatic victory proves that it is possible to win clean. And Great Britain’s first bunch sprint win in the Tour since Barry Hodan in 1975 was long overdue.
Cavendish has set the record straight in style – or as he put it: “It’s no longer a question of who did I beat, but who is there out there who can beat me?’
The answer at Chateauroux was: nobody.
Quote of the day
“Put 100 euros on me with Unibet, today I’m going to win”
Mark Cavendish to his directeur sportif 100 kilometres before the stage five finish.
Team of the week
There can be absolutely no doubt about the outstanding team of the first week of the Tour de France – step forward Team Columbia.
No wonder Bob Stapleton had a smile on his face every time we saw him. Mark Cavendish won two stages, proving beyond any doubt that he’s the fastest in the world.
But it wasn’t just Cavendish’s finish that caught the eye; it was the lead-out by his teammates, who put absolutely everything on the line for him.
There were mistakes, and it was a bit messy, but it was all the more exciting to watch for it. Gerard Ciolek deserves the ‘teammate of the tour’ award.
He’s fast enough to win in his own right but he’s working for Cavendish because he knows he’s the one man he can’t beat.
Kim Kirchen has ridden the first ten days as if they were a stage race in their own right – scrapping for placings every day.
Holding the yellow jersey stuck him right in the frame overall, but he continued to go for points because he knows the green jersey would be a great consolation prize if things don’t work out overall.
Tour de France 2008, stage five: Cholet – Chateauroux
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia 232 kilometres in 5-27-58
2. O. Freire (Rabobank)
3. E. Zabel (Milram)
4. T. Hushovd (Credit Agricole)
5. B. Cooke (Barloworld)
6. R. Hunter (Barloworld)
7. L. Duque (Cofidis)
8. R. McEwen (Silence – Lotto)
9. F. Chicchi (Liquigas)
10. J. Dean (Garmin-Chipotle)
17. M. Backstedt (Garmin-Chipotle)
50. D. Millar (Garmin-Chipotle)
134. C. Froome (Barloworld) all st.
General classification after stage five
1. Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 19-32-33
2. K. Kirchen (Columbia) at 12sec
3. D. Millar (Garmin – Chipotle) at st
4. C. Evans (Silence – Lotto) at 21sec
5. F. Cancellara (CSC) at 33sec
6. C. Vande Velde (Garmin – Chipotle)at 37sec
7. G. Hincapie (Columbia) at 41sec
8. T. Lovkvist (Columbia) at 47sec
9. V. Nibali (Liquigas) at 58sec
10. J.I. Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne) at 1-01
97. M. Cavendish ( Columbia) at 5-58
142. M. Backstedt (Garmin – Chipotle) at 8-53
162. C. Froome (Barloworld) at 11-08.
Points.- Thor Hushovd (Norway) Credit Agricole
Teams.- Garmin-Chipotle (USA)
Mountains.- Thomas Voeckler (France) Bouygues Telecom
Best Young Rider.- Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden) Columbia
This article originally appeared in the July 17 2008 edition of Cycling Weekly
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