You could tell winning on the Champs-Élysées was special for Mark Cavendish by the long double ‘Yes!’ he let out after crossing the line with his arms in the air.
When Cavendish started the 2009 Tour de France in Monaco three weeks ago, he already had his eye on winning in Paris. His other five wins along the way were all special and he learnt about fighting for the green jersey, but he wanted to win on the Champs-Élysées.
“I had to win. I said all along I wanted to win on the Champs-Élysées and didn’t want to disappoint,” Cavendish said.
“This is a win on the Champs-Élysées. Every sprinter dreams of crossing the line with their arms in the air. I wanted this and wanted it so bad.”
The other teams tried to take over the sprint but George Hincapie put Columbia-HTC back in charge inside the last kilometre and then Mark Renshaw took over.
In an act of desperation, Garmin lead-out man Julian Dean tried to take Tyler Farrar up the inside before the last corner on to the Champs-Élysées but Renshaw and Cavendish had the best and fastest line. Dean had to brake and that blocked everybody else on the way out of the corner and allowed Renshaw and Cavendish to blast away.
Cavendish came off Renshaw’s wheel with two hundred metres to go and surged away, distancing his rivals even more. It was yet another perfect lead out, with Renshaw getting a deserved second place.
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Cavendish (centre) flanked by Columbia main men Mark Renshaw (left) and George Hincapie (right) during Sunday’s final stage
“The team gave it everything to get me there. It was amazing,” Cavendish said.
“There was a lot of fighting in the end but George (Hincapie) went and he smoked past the other teams. Then Mark (Renshaw) went and I came past him. We got first and second. It’s a team’s dream and a sponsor’s dream. It’s perfect.”
With six stage victories and a first win in Paris, Cavendish was not disappointed about missing out on the green jersey. He knows there is plenty of time for that in the future, starting next year.
“I didn’t win the green jersey and without my disqualification I might have had a chance. But today Thor (Hushovd) might having been sprinting safely to hang on to it,” he said.
“I’m happy with six wins. I said I would be happy with one and getting to Paris. We can go home and be so happy.”
On his war of words with Hushovd over the green jersey, particularly after Hushovd’s stage 17 escape and Cavendish’s relegation on stage 14 for blocking Hushovd, Cavendish said: “Everybody knows I mouth it off when I’m upset, it’s the mentality of a sprinter. Thor’s a great guy and we’ve always got on well, so to fall out over something is not worth it.”
“Next year I still want stage wins, that’s what I’m about, but I’ll be targeting it and I’ll be able to suffer better and hopefully it’ll be success as this year.”