Mark Cavendish took win number 21 of what has been an amazing season in Ireland on Saturday.

Cavendish has been recovering from the Tour de France in recent weeks and had been ill before traveling to Ireland but he can always smell it when a sprint finish is in the air.

He again got an excellent lead out from his team mates and then blasted down the slightly descending finishing straight to win with his arms in the air. Belgium’s Michael Van Staeyen (Rabobank Continental) was second, with Stuart O’Grady (Saxo Bank) third.

Russell Downing (Candi TV) was 17th in the same time and so kept the overall race lead ahead of Alexander Kolobnev (Saxo Bank), who is at five seconds.

Lance Armstrong (Astana) also finished in the front group after a quiet day as the peloton raced through the Irish lanes and over three heather covered hills.

PARIS-TOURS THE BIG END OF SEASON TARGET

Cavendish will ride the Tour of Missouri in mid-September but also confirmed he will ride the world championships and then go for victory at Paris-Tours.

“It’s great to win. This was a team victory, it always is. One guys crosses the line with his arms in the air but it’s a success for all of us and we all get a glass of wine at dinner,” he said.   

“I’ve been sick in the last two weeks and I had a break after the Tour. This is the first time I’ve gone deep since the Tour de France. The GC is not for me but it is for the team. I won’t be able to help them but I think they can win overall.”

“I’ve won a stage in every race I’ve done since De Panne in 2008. I want to carry on that trend.  I’ve ridden 80 races and I’ve been full gas since the Tour of Qatar but I’m also going to ride the worlds. I’m not going for the results, I’ll work out to support my team mates but I want to be in my best condition.

“Then Paris-Tours is also on the card for the first time in my career. Hopefully I can get a result there. It’s the sprinter’s classic. I won Milan-San Remo, I’ve won on the Champs-Elysees at the Tour de France and if I win Paris-Tours it’s the three big sprint races in one year. I want to try and do it. I like to set myself challenges.”
 
Both Cavendish and Armstrong ruled themselves out of victory on Sunday’s final stage from Bantry to Cork. The 186km stage ends with three circuits that includes the famous 25% climb of St Patrick’s Hill.

Last year Marco Pinotti (Columbia) snatched overall victory from Russell Downing on the climb. Hopefully the Yorkshireman can hold on and take a much deserved stage race victory.