Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), fresh in his new British Champion’s jersey, won his first stage of this year’s Tour de France in Marseille.
“To be fair today the sprint wasn’t too difficult for me,” Cavendish said in a press conference. “I didn’t do anything. If I’d have lost that today I would have let the guys down.”
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Cavendish followed team-mate Matteo Trentin and held of a charge by Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky). Further back in the field, a crash wiped out many, including overall contender Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol).
The win, his 24th in the Tour, followed a few small hills that distanced his rivals, including Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) and Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano).
“We gave everything to try to win, we made sure we knew the uncategorised last climb at [12.5km out],” Cavendish added. “Finally, I remembered it; it was in the GP Marseillaise when Jeremy Hunt won [in 2007]. I did it then and remembered it. One and a half kilometres – I could hang on.”
General manager, Patrick Lefevere was pleased with Cavendish’s first Tour win since signing for the team this winter. He said that the team worked well over the Col de la Gineste when it saw Cavendish was still in the race.
“I can’t say names; everyone was working very hard,” Lefevere said. “Jérôme Pineau started, once they saw that Mark had good legs on the last climb, the whole team, even Michal Kwiatkowski, who would’ve been able to take the yellow jersey, so…”
The win also marked the Tour de France’s first bunch sprint. Kittel won day one, but that was on the heels of a crash that took out many of his rivals. Puncheurs won the second two stages before the race left Corsica for mainland France.
“This is the really first sprint,” added Lefevere. “The first day did not count because there were not that many there, the other days in Corsica were a little bit too hard, one breakaway with Bakelants… and finally this is the first sprint.”
Cavendish was asked about approaching Bernhard Hinault’s stage win record (28) and Eddy Merckx’s (34).
“The Tour de France is the Tour de France, you have to show it the respect it deserves,” he added.
“One stage makes a rider’s career, let alone one per year. I aim to win stages each year, but to set goals like that sets you up to fail. I changed teams because this race means everything for me, I want to come here for the rest of my career and give the race the respect it deserves.”