Tour de France: Tearful Cavendish back on track
He finally did it. Yesterday in Montargis, Mark Cavendish was finally able to claim his eleventh Tour stage victory — his first of this year’s race, and arguably the most important win of his career.
Cavendish's huge yell of triumph as he crossed the line over a bikelength ahead of Germany's Gerald Ciolek, followed by almost non-stop tears of joy on the podium and in post-race interviews, confirmed how badly the 25-year-old Manxman had needed this win.
After three years of a meteoric rise to world domination of the sprints, Cavendish’s 2010 season had largely consisted of battling against one obstacle after another — starting with an infected tooth that wrecked his Spring Classics campaign, and culminating in a brutally disappointing failure to win Wednesday's bunch sprint when he was in the perfect position to do so.
In between came slatings from other riders for allegedly irregular sprinting, a withdrawal by his team from a race after flicking 'V' signs at “journalists who know jack-s**t about cycling,” the worst crash of his career and a failure to finish even one stage race.
“The pressure has been terrible,” Cavendish said later, and on Thursday the rider who had seemed unbeatable in 2009 once more — finally — was back on top of his Tour de France game.
Just as on Wednesday, yesterday Cavendish's HTC-Columbia worked tirelessly to keep a three-man break of the day within controlling distance, then team-mates Bernie Eisel and Mark Renshaw kept the Briton close to the front and out of trouble in the closing kilometres.
Fifth into the final corner with 600 metres to go, Renshaw left it unusually late to swing across
and let Cavendish blast away, but the tactic worked perfectly.
With less than a dozen pedal strokes, the Manxman was well ahead of the rest of the pack, right hand punching the sky as he crossed the line, an almost impossibly large grin breaking out from cheek to cheek.
After racking up a staggering 54 wins in three years, Cavendish revealed in his press conference that taking his 55th victory following such a difficult build-up had given it a very different feel.
“Yesterday [Wednesday] I couldn't finish my team's work off, and I let them down,” he said. “But today they still believed in me, they rode out of their skins and delivered me to the line, and I can't thank them enough for still believing me and giving me that opportunity to win.
“I was on a cloud before this year, and I wanted to stay there, and when I came off it hurt, badly.
“But I'm surrounded by a great group of people.”