Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) won the Tour de France's yellow jersey for the first time in his career after winning his 27th stage in the race along the Normandy coast, but says that since his first win in 2008, he had the pressure to perform in the world's biggest bicycle race.
Cavendish sprinted ahead of Marcel Kittel (Etixx–Quick-Step) and world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) at Utah Beach on stage one, the site of the D-Day invasion, to win stage one of the Tour. Immediately afterwards, accolades poured in on the internet from rivals to team-mates complementing Cavendish on his achievement.
"There are a lot of guys in the peloton who f**king hate me to be fair," Cavendish said with the wind whipping off the coast. "But to be fair that was a lot in my past. The thing is, it's easy to forget that this is my 10th Tour de France, you know from the beginning I had the pressure to win. You kind of don't know anything different."
Cavendish rode part of the 2007 Tour and won his first stage in the 2008 Tour with team Highroad. He quickly started adding them up, sometimes winning six in one year. So much so, L'Equipe newspaper in 2012, called him the best Tour sprinter in the race's history.
"Since those days, ever since 2008 it's been the end of me, do you know what I mean? I guess it's something to talk about. There are some great people in cycling, as well as some people I don't get along with. I have some incredible friends the sport's given me. I've been part of some of the best teams in the world and I've made some incredible friends and that's what's important."
Cavendish missed the chance to wear the yellow jersey on two other occasions, when he was held up behind a crash in the 2013 Tour in Corsica and in 2014, when he crashed in his mum's hometown of Harrogate. This time, he won the first stage and the iconic jersey, and soaked it all in.
"My wife wrote me a card and said me that I know some times it might get on top of you, but these are the days that you'll look back on and smile on in a few years. Just remember," he added. "It's true, you got to enjoy it."
The 31-year-old Manxman will wear the jersey in action for the first time tomorrow when the race leaves Saint-Lô for a tough finish in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin.
"I don't know, it's been a very long time since we had a very long straight finish in the Tour de France," he said of the stage finish. Adding, "What will happen tomorrow? I don't know we'll see, I might be dead tomorrow."
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