Mark Cavendish matched Piet Oellibrandt's record today, winning the Scheldeprijs one-day classic for a third time.
"It's massive, a big win," said Cavendish. "I missed it the last two years, but I'm happy to come back and win it. It was my first win as a professional, it's special to me."
HTC-Highroad's Cavendish put several bike lengths between himself and Russian Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) and Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ) after four and-a-half hours and 200 kilometres. 2002 winner, Australian Robbie McEwen (RadioShack) finished fifth.
Scheldeprijs was Cavendish's second win of the season after a sprint win in the Tour of Oman.
"He's been training hard and put in the miles in the winter, he just had some crashes and it just didn't work out before," said HTC lead out man, Bernhard Eisel. "He was too far back in Ghent-Wevelgem, but now, we've won one of the Flanders classics this year."
"I had thought [I would] take the last 15k easy, but instead, I stayed with Cav as long as possible," Eisel continued. "I couldn't hold Flecha's wheel any more, so I slung Mark into position."
Cavendish took his first professional win in here Schoten back in 2007 ahead of McEwen. He returned a year later and won ahead of Tom Boonen. "I have really great memories from here," he said.
"Missing it 2009 and 2010 was upsetting. The team was incredible to back me to get the win. They worked all day, riding a great tempo. Eisel kept me right at front the whole last lap, I was in every corner first because of Bernie." Madison world champion Leigh Howard was Cavendish's final lead-out man today.
American sprinter Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) was taken out in a crash in the final three hundred metres involving Wouter Weylandt (Leopard-Trek), Sjef De Wilde (Verandas Willems-Accent) and Chris Sutton (Sky). Weylandt, De Wilde and Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen (who crashed into a tree with 30km to go and has suspected broken ribs) all went to the hospital.
"I was hit from behind as I was about to launch my sprint," said Farrar. "I don't really know what happened."
Crashes have marred the race in the past. In 2009, Alessandro Petacchi won ahead of a crash involving McEwen and Greg Van Avermaet. Ludovic Capelle won in 2003, but in the final two kilometres, Julien Dean, Robert Hunter and, again, McEwen crashed.
Does the run in to the finish need changing? Maybe. "I thought, 'This is crazy.' Am I getting old and nervous now? Cycling's changing now, it's a f***ing free for all, it's pretty dangerous," Cavendish said afterwards. "If there's a place for me to be nervous, it's nervous. I've never been nervous before. I took risks. Now, I'm scared, man, for me to be scared..."
"There is so much pressure to do well in every race now, it's a long season and every race matters. There's more than one captain in each team, it's a free for all now and that makes it very different."
"There are a lot of second tier sprinters now, they all want to have a go, and you can't give them sh*t for trying. But, that certainly makes it more chaotic."
Mark Cavendish sprints away from the rest of the field to win his third Scheldeprijs
American Tyler Farrar hits the deck in the sprint
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad 4-29.57hrs
2. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
3. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Français des Jeux
4. Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Verandas Willems-Accent
5. R McEwen (Aus) RadioShack
6. Francesco Chicci (Ita) Quick Step
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) BMC
8. Theo Bos (Ned) Rabobank
9. Frederique Robert (Bel) Quick Step
10. Kenny Van Hummel (Ned) Skil-Shimano all at same time
19. Adam Blythe (GBr) Omega Pharma Lotto
The all time list of British pro winners
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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