Cavendish completes the set of grand tour stage wins
Mark Cavendish won the 12th stage of the Vuelta a Espana in Lleida to complete the set of grand tour stage victories.
After winning at the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, Cavendish has a Vuelta stage to add to the collection.
The HTC-Columbia sprinter had time to ease up and look around as he hit the line such was the gap he and team-mate Matt Goss had as they came round the final bend.
Cavendish revealed that he had wanted Goss to win but the Aussie pulled over. Goss had his arms in the air in celebration before Cavendish.
It was the 60th victory of Cavendish's pro career - and his 21st grand tour stage win.
Cavendish is only the second British rider to win a stage in all three grand tours - the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana. The Scottish climber Robert Millar completed the grand slam in 1987.
And the British connections continue. Today's stage was only the second in Vuelta history to finish in the town of Lleida. On the previous visit Malcolm Elliott, riding for the Spanish Teka team, won the stage on his way to winning the blue points competition jersey.
The stage win has put Cavendish back in the green jersey as leader of the points competition. He leads by 11 points from Tyler Farrar.
Cavendish said: "That [win] was because of my lead-out man. Gossy did an incredible job. It was so chaotic in the final and I thought we were too far back with 600 metres go. Then Gossy gave me a lead-out and I saw the gap we had. I actually wanted to give him the win but he pulled over. The team worked really well. We had Lars Bak in the break so we didn't have to ride. Garmin and Cervélo made it hard for themselves by riding hard to bring the break back before the climb but that worked for us."
After clinching the 60th win of his career in just his fourth season as a professional he said: "I just love winning and being part of a winning team and I hope to carry on winning for as long as I'm professional."
It was a fairly formulaic stage, covering 172.5 kilometres from Andorra la Vella to Lleida. A nine-man break got away but they were never allowed more than a couple of minutes or so. They were Markus Eichler (Milram), Perrig Quemeneur (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Gustavo Cesar (Xacobeo Galicia), Lars Ytting Bak (HTC-Columbia), Antonio Piedra (Andalucia Cajasur), Biel Kadri (AG2R), David Garcia (Xacobeo Galicia), Marco Manzano (Lampre) and Gustavo Rodriguez (Xacobeo Galicia). They were caught with 23 kilometres to go.
Garmin did a lot of work on the run-in but when it came to the finish HTC-Columbia came to the fore.
There was no change overall - Igor Anton of Euskatel kept his 45-second lead over Vincenzo Nibali of Italy.
The stage began without Roy Sentjens, the Dutch Milram rider. It was announced that he had tested positive for EPO during an out-of-competition test last month.
Tomorrow's 13th stage from Rincon de Soto to Burgos covers 196 kilometres and rises steadily all the way. There are two third-category climbs in the final third meaning it could favour a breakaway.
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia in 4-00-30
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Transitions
3. Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Columbia
4. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
5. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervélo
6. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
7. Allan Davis (Aus) Astana
8. Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française des Jeux
9. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma
10. Angelo Furlan (Ita) Lampre all same time
1. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 51-37-45
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 45sec
3. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo at 1-04
4. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 1-17
5. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 1-29
6. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Caisse d'Epargne at 1-57
7. Ruben Plaza (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 2-07
8. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Caisse d'Epargne at 2-13
9. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R at 2-30
10. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank same time
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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.
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