It was third time lucky on the rain-soaked streets of Dumfries for Mark Cavendish as he took the third stage of the Tour of Britain in convincing style.
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Team Sky’s World Champion was at his best as he comfortably distanced yesterday’s winner, Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge), following a pitch-perfect lead out from team-mate and former race leader Luke Rowe.
Howard was rewarded for his consistent finishes with the race leader’s gold jersey at the end of the stage but for Cavendish it was all about winning in the rainbow stripes at his home race.
After a late crash on stage one and a misfire on stage two, he looked more relieved than pleased to have finally chalked up his first win in the 2012 race.
That could have been thanks to a congratulatory punch on the arm from team-mate Bernie Eisel straight after the stage (on the very arm Cavendish injured on stage one), but Cavendish will also no doubt also recognise the poignancy of his win.
The clock is very much ticking next to his prized world champion’s jersey; just five days remain before Cavendish must relinquish the rainbow stripes to their next wearer.
Thrill of the chase
It wasn’t quite the routine sprint finish that Cavendish and Sky might have been hoping for at the start of the stage and the day’s break certainly made the home team work for their reward.
Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-Sharp), Pete Williams (Node4-Giordana) and Wesley Sulzberger (Raleigh-GAC), were the first of the five-man break to be reeled in by the peloton, leaving Wesley Kreder (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Pete Hawkins (IG-Sigma) dangling out with 23km to race.
Hawkins exchanged places with wantaway Garmin-Sharp rider Sep Vanmarcke as the rain lashed the finishing circuit around Dumfries but repeated surges from Bradley Wiggins and Jeremy Hunt (Sky) meant they were caught with just enough time to spare.
Yesterday on stage two, Cavendish deliberately dropped back from Rowe’s wheel: a move which backfired and saw him boxed in behind Boy Van Poppel and Leigh Howard and able only to finish second.
This time around he and Rowe made no mistake and the Manxman pounced out of the greasy final corner just as the sun broke through the clouds to illuminate his mud-splattered jersey.
It was job done with 100m to go, giving him time to celebrate his second win in a row in Dumfries, and his fifth Tour of Britain stage.
Tour of Britain 2012, stage three: Jedburgh to Dumfries, 152.6km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky in 3h 54-30
2. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
3. Aidis Kruopis (Ltu) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Luke Rowe (GBr) Sky
5. Sam Bennett (Irl) An Post-Sean Kelly Team
6. Russell Downing (GBr) Endura Racing
7. Boy Van Poppel (Ned) UnitedHealthcare
8. Jonny McEvoy (GBr) Endura Racing
9. Barry Markus (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
10. Yanto Barker (GBr) UK-Youth all at s.t.
Overall standings after stage three (provisional)
1. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge in 13h 16-28
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky s.t.
3. Boy Van Poppel (Ned) UnitedHealthcare at 4 secs
4. Luke Rowe (GBr) Sky s.t.
5. Rony Martias (Fra) Saur-Sojasun at 10 secs
6. Russell Downing (GBr) Endura Racing at 12 secs
7. Steele Von Hoff (Aus) Garmin-Sharp at 16 secs
8. Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp s.t.
9. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Garmin-Sharp s.t.
10. Sam Bennett (Irl) An Post-Sean Kelly Team at 17 secs
Break in Dumfries
Heading to the hills
Boy Van Poppel, overnight race leader
Mark Cavendish in press conference
New race leader, Leigh Howard
Yodel sprint leader Pete Williams
King of the Mountains, Kristian House
Points leader, Boy Van Poppel
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