Sky added to what has already been an impressive 2012 Tour de France by winning stage 18 on Friday with Mark Cavendish. Bradley Wiggins, wearing the race leader's yellow jersey, led the World Champion through the final bends into Brive-la-Gaillarde and punched the air in celebration when he crossed the line.
"We don't want to be greedy, but we are here to perform and we are delivering," sports director, Sean Yates explained. "There were still a number of stages where we could've chased the breakaway and had a chance of wins, but we haven't done that. We've done everything we can to protect the jersey."
An escape with Nicolas Roche (Ag2r), Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) nearly stayed clear. Behind, though, Wiggins revved up to lead Cavendish to his second 2012 stage win. He promised Cavendish earlier in the day: "This one is for you".
"We didn't know it was going to be a sprint today, it was a hard stage, it could have been easy for my guys to cruise in after the mountains they've ridden," Cavendish explained after the finish, in the cool video conference cabin.
"Yates said today let's just take it easy, but I asked to have sprint. 'Please can I have a sprint?' Brad piped up, and said, 'Yes, let's sprint'."
Wiggins led through a left-hand turn in the final kilometre. He eyed Roche, brought Cavendish close enough and eased up to watch the sprint. Edvald Boasson Hagen took over, went though a right turn and released Cavendish. Cavendish passed Sánchez, Roche and covered the last 250 metres at the head.
Cavendish won over Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), Wiggins threw up his right fist up and Roche held on for 12th.
"He knows we're here to win the Tour and where priorities are. That's not to say that Bradley won't take it upon himself to win a stage, as he did today and in previous days," Yates said. "It shows, when it comes to the time, we are willing to contribute unless it conflicts with our goal to win the overall."
Sky collected four stages so far this Tour with Chris Froome winning the summit finish to La Planche des Belles Filles, Wiggins winning the Besançon time trial and Cavendish's in Tournai and in Brive-la-Gaillarde today. It only needs two more days before it can celebrate Great Britain's first Tour de France win, both days - a time trial and a flat stage into Paris - suit its leaders.
Cavendish added: "As a British team being here, doing what we're doing, I'm proud to be a part of that."
Tour de France 2012: Latest news
Sky's quick exit strategy from the Tour
Wiggins and Froome explain Tour stage 17 final climb debate
Liquigas hopes Tour success could help find sponsor
Froome: Nibali's attacks weren't going anywhere
Wiggins' Tour de France training
Voigt tries to carry on as RadioShack's future seems in doubt
Frank Schleck positive for banned substance at Tour
Rest day review (July 17)
Defending Tour champ Evans has work to do in Pyrenees
Sprinters' teams unwilling to work on stage 15
Evans suffers multiple punctures after Tour tack attack
Froome not winning this year's Tour is 'very great sacrifice'
Frank Schleck criticises 'boring' Tour de France
Tour de France 2012: Teams, riders, start list
Tour 2012: Who will win?
Tour de France 2012 start list and withdrawals
Tour de France 2012 team list
Tour de France 2012: Stage reports
Stage 18: Cavendish wins Tour stage 18 with irresistible sprint
Stage 17: Wiggins step closer to Paris as Valverde wins stage
Stage 16: Voeckler the Pyrenean king as he wins in Bagneres de Luchon
Stage 15: Fedrigo wins, day off for peloton
Stage 14: Sanchez solos to Foix victory to save Rabobank's Tour
Stage 13: Greipel survives climb and crosswinds to win third Tour stage
Stage 12: Millar wins Tour stage nine years from his last
Stage 11: Wiggins strengthens Tour lead as Evans slips back
Stage 10: Voeckler wins and saves his Tour
Stage nine: Wiggins destroys opposition in Besancon TT
Stage eight: Pinot solos to Tour win as Wiggins fights off attacks
Stage seven: Wiggins takes yellow as Froome wins stage
Stage six: Sagan wins third Tour stage
Stage five: Greipel wins again as Cavendish fades
Stage four: Greipel wins stage after Cavendish crashes
Stage three: Sagan runs away with it in Boulogne
Stage two: Cavendish takes 21st Tour stage victory
Stage one: Sagan wins at first attempt
Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second
Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs
Analysis: What we learned at La Planche des Belles Filles
Analysis: How much time could Wiggins gain in Tour's time trials
CW's Tour de France podcasts
Blog: Tour presentation - chasing dreams and autographs
Comment: Cavendish the climber
Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries
Stage 18 by Graham Watson
Stage 17 by Graham Watson
Stage 16 by Graham Watson
Stage 15 by Graham Watson
Stage 14 by Graham Watson
Stage 13 by Graham Watson
Stage 12 by Graham Watson
Stage 11 by Graham Watson
Stage 10 by Graham Watson
Stage nine by Graham Watson
Stage eight by Graham Watson
Stage seven by Graham Watson
Stage six by Graham Watson
Stage five by Graham Watson
Stage four by Graham Watson
Stage three by Graham Watson
Stage two by Andy Jones
Stage two by Graham Watson
Stage one by Graham Watson
Prologue photo gallery by Andy Jones
Prologue photo gallery by Roo Rowler
Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2012: Team presentation
Sky and Rabobank Tour de France recce
Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage
Stage 17 live coverage
Stage 16 live coverage
Stage 12 live coverage
Stage 11 live coverage
Stage 10 live coverage
Stage nine live coverage
Stage six live coverage
Stage five live coverage
Stage four live coverage
Stage three live coverage
Cycling Weekly's live text coverage schedule
Tour de France 2012: TV schedule
ITV4 live schedule
British Eurosport live schedule
Tour de France 2012: Related links
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
Brief history of the Tour de France
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
1989: The Greatest Tour de France ever
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