Mark Cavendish got another perfect lead out from his Columbia team mates and then produced another perfect finishing surge to win the first sprint at the 2009 Tour de France in Brignoles on Sunday.
It was Cavendish’s fifth stage win at the Tour de France and the 42nd win of his professional career. It also lifted him to first place in Cycling Weekly’s all-time list of British winners ahead of Chris Boardman. To complete a perfect day, Cavendish also pulled on the green points jersey, his big overall goal in this year’s race.
Sprinters usually win by a nose but Cavendish was five bike lengths clear when he sat up, cracked a huge smile and crossed the line.
Tyler Farrar (Garmin) was second and Romain Feillu (Agritubel) was third but were hardly in the finishing shot.
“That was brilliant,” Cavendish said.
“I said I was in good form and all the team was motivated for the sprint, with all nine of us riding on the front, it showed we meant business. I didn’t know if I’d opened my legs or if it’d takes a few day to ride in but I felt good today. I rode intelligently early on, following the wheels and saving energy. It was a pretty long sprint but I didn’t want to make a mistake like I did in Giro and be lazy, so I went early and hung out there.”
Cavendish’s rivals had threatened to come up with all kinds of tricks to beat him but yet again his Columbia team mates took control of the peloton after the early four-rider break was reeled in with 10km to go. Sprint consultant Erik Zabel had studied the finish and told the team to go on the left of the key roundabout and have two riders to lead out Cav in the final corners. That’s what they did and it worked.
Other teams tried to bully them on the front but Michael Rogers put Columbia in the driving seat with two kilometres to go and then world time trial champion Bert Grabsch took over. Just inside the final kilometre a Euskaltel rider tried to go straight on instead of turning right. He caused half a dozen riders to tumble.
Cavendish was out of danger behind team mates George Hincapie and Mark Renshaw but the crash split the bunch, making the sprint even easier for Columbia. Only Farrar was on Cavendish’s wheel but he was already struggling when Renshaw accelerated and faded rapidly when Cavendish hit the front and opened up the turbo.
“When George Hincapie goes, he strings out the bunch and then when Mark Renshaw goes, he’s one of the five fastest sprinters in the world, so it’s about if I can hold it. This is the Tour de France and so I’m on form and can win,” Cavendish said.
The crash left a few gaps in the peloton, with Italy’s Danilo Napolitano (Katusha) walking to the finish wheeling his damaged bike. However, all the other main contenders finished safely in the bunch. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) kept the yellow jersey, with Alberto Contador (Astana) still second overall at 18 seconds and Bradley Wiggins (Garmin) third at 19 seconds.
Tuesday’s team time trial will be the next big test for Cancellara, with Wiggins in with a possible chance of taking the yellow jersey if Garmin beat Saxo Bank and Astana by 19 seconds.
Before then there is another sprint in the Grand Motte on Monday stage three, where Cavendish is likely to take his career total to 43.
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Stage two: Monaco-Brignoles, 187km
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-HTC in 4-30-02
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Slipstream
3. Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel
4. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo
5. Yukiya Arashiro (Jap) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
6. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Milram
7. William Bonnet (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
8. Nicolas Roche (Ire) Ag2r-La Mondiale
9. Koen de Kort (Ned) Skil-Shimano
10. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale all same time
Overall classification after stage two
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank in 4-49-34
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 18secs
3. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 19secs
4. Andreas Kloden (Ger) Astana at 22secs
5. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 23secs
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 30secs
7. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 32secs
8. Tony Martin (Ger) Columbia-HTC at 33secs
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 37secs
10. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 40secs
Points classification after stage two
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-HTC 35pts
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Slipstream 30
3. Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel 26
Fabian Cancellara in the yellow leader’s jersey
Mark Cavendish won today’s stage and gets the Green jersey
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