Britain?s Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) proved he is more than just the best young sprinter in professional with an aggressive ride on the fifth stage of the Tour of Britain between Liverpool and Kendal on Friday.
Cavendish has won ten sprints in his first season as a professional but showed he also has a natural instinct for classics racing by getting in the decisive attack on the road to Kendal.
Perhaps stung by the criticism for the way he raced on stage two when he lost the race leader?s yellow jersey, Cavendish went with the attacks from the gun and was in the thick of the action as strong side winds split along Southport seafront. He made sure he was in the ten-rider break and then kept attacking until he got away with Russia?s Alexandre Serov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) after 45 miles. They stayed clear all the way to Kendal, with Cavendish winning all three intermediate sprints to give him the special red, white and blue hot spot sprints jersey.
Near the end of the stage Serov was rightly worried that Cavendish would beat him in the final sprint and so attacked hard on the final climbs of Old Town and Blease Hill near Kirkby Lonsdale. Serov went on to win alone on the uphill finish in Kendal but Cavendish fought all the way to the line and finished second at 1-43.
France?s Romain Feillu (Agritubel) jumped away from the chasing bunch to take third at 1-45 but Cavendish was the hero of the day and got the most aggressive rider award.
The 22 from the Isle of Man was proud to have shown he is more than ?just? a sprinter.
?It?s hard racing for 100 miles like that but I?ve learnt from a good friend that I can?t always rely on my team mates and wait for the sprint. Pure sprinter aren?t good riders; it?s better to be more aggressive and be an all round rider,? Cavendish said.
?It was on par with second stage as the hardest of the race but today I was riding aggressively and it was hard in tow with the strong winds.
Serov was so strong I?m happy enough with second place.?
Cavendish?s attack was a show of pride but he made it clear he is satisfied with his ride in the Tour of Britain.
?To be honest the sprints jersey came a bonus but more importantly we showed we haven?t lost everything by getting in breaks and trying to get another stage win,? he said.
?I think two wins constitutes a good enough Tour for me and team. Unfortunately we lost the yellow jersey on the second stage but we all rode 100% and to get something back is satisfying.?
Cavendish admitted he was tired but set sights on winning the final sprint in Glasgow on Saturday afternoon.
?It should be a bunch sprint tomorrow. If a break goes, I won?t be in a rush to get in it because I?m pretty tired. It?d be nice to hang to the jersey but we?ll see what happens,? he said.
With the overall race victory set to be decided in the final sprint, the finish on Glasgow Green should be spectacularly fast.