Mark Cavendish watched Sunday?s stage to Prato Nevoso from the Columbia team car, following the action all the way to the finish in the Italian ski resort.

His Tour de France is over after he decided not to start Sunday?s 15th stage but he can go home immensely proud of what he has achieved in the last two weeks.

Few riders have won four stages in the same Tour de France and even fewer have done it as such a young age. Cavendish is now the fastest sprinter in the world and even his rivals admit they have little chance of beating him when he is on form.

Cavendish admitted he was very tired after 14 days at the Tour de France. He has now done a total of 70 days of racing so far this season, including finishing the Giro d?Italia, and has won eleven races, including six stages in major Tours.

“THE BEST THING TO DO WAS STOP”
Cavendish knew it was time to head after being dropped on the short climb before the finish in Digne-les-Bains.

?When I crossed the line at the finish I knew I didn?t have much more in me and when I saw I was out of contention for the green jersey I realised the best thing to do was stop before I do myself any more damage,? Cavendish told Cycling Weekly before heading down the mountain and eventually home to the Isle of Man for a few days of rest and recovery.

?I was really tired in the last few days, even when I won, but I kept it going and as long as I could results I was going to stay.

Cavendish decided to retire after speaking at length with Columbia directeur sportif Brian Holm and his personal coach and mentor Rod Ellingworth of British Cycling.

“I spoke to Rod every day and he agreed it is the best thing to do,” Cavendish said.

?We had a plan: I wanted to finish the Giro and see how far I could do in the Tour de France. We?ve done that, so it?s perfect. Now I?ll go home and begin to prepare for the Olympics.?

REST AND RECOVERY
Cavendish will spend several days at home in the Isle of Man, mixing rest and recovery with light training. It has still to be decided if he rides the Tour of Denmark in early August but will ride a few selected criterium, including one in Herentals, Belgium where he will face sprint rivals Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Daniele Bennati (Liquigas).

He is scheduled to meet up with Rod Ellingworth and the Great Britain team in Newport for final track training on August 4. He will do specific speed work for the Madison and then fly out to Beijing to team up with Bradley Wiggins for the Madison on Tuesday August 19.



TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage 15: Schleck takes lead in the Alps
Stage 14: Oscar Freire wins in Digne-les-Bains
Stage 13: Cavendish takes fourth win
Stage 12: Cavendish makes it three
Stage 11: Arvesen wins
Stage 10: Evans takes yellow jersey by one second
Stage nine: Ricco wins in the Pyrenees
Stage eight: Cavendish wins again in Toulouse
Stage seven: Sanchez takes action-packed stage
Stage six: Ricco storms to win
Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win
Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead
Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break
Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint
Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Comment: Why Cav is right to go home today
Cavendish pulls out of the Tour
Barloworld to end cycling sponsorship
Ricco speaks on Italian television
Cavendish joins the all-time greats
Saunier Duval sack Ricco and Piepoli
Tour bosses say fight against doping continues
Ricco denies doping at the Tour
Saunier Duval pull out of Tour
Tour’s top ten changes
Ricco positive for EPO at Tour
Analysis: Tour de France rest day summary
Cavendish battles through Pyrenees
Evans suffers but takes yellow jersey [stage 10]
Analysis: Hautacam shakes up 2008 Tour
Ricco silences critics with solo attack in Pyrenees [stage nine]
Cavendish talks about his second stage win [stage eight]
Beltran heads home but doubts remain about other Tour riders
David Millar: the dope controls are working
Manuel Beltran tests positive for EPO at the Tour
Comment: How the Tour rediscovered its spirit
Doping back in Tour de France headlines
Millar: close but no cigar in Super-Besse [stage six]
Super-Besse shows form of main contenders [stage six]
Millar to go for yellow [stage six]
Team Columbia’s reaction to Cavendish’s win [stage five]
Cavendish talks about his Tour stage win
Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]
Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]
Who is Romain Feillu?
Cavendish disappointed with stage two result
Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey
Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?
Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec
Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win
Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

Stage 13
Stage 12
Stage 11
Stage 11
Stage 10
Stage nine
Stage eight
Stage seven
Stage six
Stage five
Stage four
Stage three
Stage two
Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: BLOGS

Life at the Tour part five
Life at the Tour part four
Life at the Tour part three
Life at the Tour part two
Life at the Tour part one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

Tour de France 2008 homepage>>
News and features>>
All the riders (start list, list of abandons)>>
Day by day summary>>
Route & stages>>
Teams and riders>>
About the Tour>>