HTC-Columbia has kept its confidence in British sprinter Mark Cavendish despite a rough season. It has paid off, too. Yesterday, he expressed his gratitude in the best possible way, winning stage five of the Tour de France in Montargis.

The stage win was Tour de France win number 11 for Cavendish , adding to his six from last year and four from 2008.

For the public, the wins were all but forgotten this spring when Cavendish failed to repeat at Milan-San Remo and took his first win relatively late. He had reason, though. He missed training and delayed the start to his season due to teeth problems.

This Tour de France presented its own problems for Cavendish. Not only did he lose team-mate Adam Hansen to a crash In stage one to Brussels Sunday, but he also crashed himself just before the finish line.

When Cavendish finally had his first proper go at a sprint, two days ago in Reims, something else went wrong. He had no response to rival Alessandro Petacchi’s early jump at 350 metres to the finish line and he felt he had let his HTC team down for what was a near-perfect lead out.

HTC team manager, Bob Stapleton, stepped into the team’s bus and talked Cavendish immediately after the stage.

“I told him we were behind him 100 per cent and that he did not have to worry because we have confidence in him,” explained Stapleton. “This is the first time the team has struggled in its long history, but I think adversity isn’t going to break this group.”

The same public who forgot just what Cavendish has already accomplished by the age of 25 also enjoy the way he adds a punch to the sport. Cavendish’s two-fingered salute in the Tour of Romandy in May and rough treatment of his equipment after the Reims stage spice up cycling. It is in the same vein as former Italian super sprinter, Mario Cipollini, and not the ho-hum style of German Erik Zabel, who, oddly enough, is now Cavendish’s coach at HTC.

Cavendish’s style, though, has left some fans confused and even led to some disrespectful team Sky supporters to shout, “Cavendish, you suck! Go home!”

“I think obviously there’s no fire without fuel,” said Cavendish after his win yesterday. “There are a lot of people who want to judge my personality on what they see 30 seconds after a bike race.”

His Tour de France win yesterday in Montargis was a show of gratitude for HTC confidence in the difficult moments and a response the doubting public. Cavendish proved to everyone he can back up his reputation with quality and classy wins.

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Tour de France 2010: Stage reports



Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour



Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims



Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC



Stage three live coverage: As it happened



Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa



Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters



Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win

Tour de France 2010: Photos



Stage three photo gallery



Stage two photo gallery



Stage one gallery



Prologue photo gallery

Tour de France 2010: Videos



Stage four video highlights



Stage three video highlights



Stage two video highlights



Stage one video highlights



Prologue video highlights

Tour de France 2010: Race guide



Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index



Official start list, with race numbers



Brits at the Tour 2010



Tout team guide



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Tour team presentation, Rotterdam



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