Giro d'Italia: Mark Cavendish is first Briton to win points jerseys in all three Grand Tours
A year after losing the Giro d'Italia's points classification by a single point – and with it his chances of a Grand Slam of victories in the category in all three Grand Tours – Mark Cavendish bounced back with a vengeance.
The Briton sealed both a last-minute triumph in the points classification and took a fifth stage win out of a possible five.
On Saturday night, despite having taken four bunch sprint victories, Cavendish was in an even worse situation than last year: 11 points down on Vincenzo Nibali, who took the overall victory, and with everything to play for on the last stage.
But if turning things around when they are set dead against you is one of the hallmarks of the truly great in sport, Cavendish proved he has that talent in spades. He first racked up the maximum points possible in two intermediate sprints, and then blasted head-to-head for the line in a long sprint against Sacha Modolo to end the Giro as he started it in Naples: with his arms in the air in triumph, and this time the Giro points jersey in the bag, too.
"I missed out on it by so little last time that there was no way I was going home without it," Cavendish, just the fifth rider in history to take the points jerseys in the three Grand Tours, said. "Nothing was going to stop me.
"When I was a kid I made a list of the things I wanted to do in cycling and now I've got all of them bar one: winning [top one-day Classic] Gent-Wevelgem. But I'll still keep finding things to do and I'll keep pushing it further and see how far I can get in my career."
One other record was taken by Cavendish: capturing all the victories in all five of the Giro d'Italia stages that were liable to end in a bunch sprint. In the 2009 Tour, when he took his maximum number of sprints to date in a Grand Tour – six – one flat stage, won by France's Thomas Voeckler, eluded him. But that was not the case.
But the most impressive achievement of all, surely, was taking the Giro's points classification. For a sprinter it is by far the hardest of the three in the Grand Tours to take: the points distribution is weighted in favour of the overall contenders, and on Wednesday Cavendish had all but ruled himself out of winning it.
Then after his closest pursuer Cadel Evans steadily lost ground, Nibali became a surprise new challenger. Only Sunday's win clinched it.
There were other British triumphs to celebrate, too, with Sky taking second overall and capturing a stage win with Rigoberto Uran, a team time trial and the teams prize. For a squad that lost their star leader, Sir Bradley Wiggins, through illness, this was no mean achievement and the team has now had podium finishes on all three major Tours.
For Cavendish, though, the clinching of the red jersey was the kind of triumph that sets a stamp on an entire career, and if his level of achievement is such that he is running out of targets, the Briton will go on trying to set up new ones.
"I'm addicted to winning. When I was a kid it wasn't just about doing my best, I had to be first," he said. "I want to try and win bike races, and if somebody comes along who's faster, I'll go home and work harder until I'm faster again." And thanks to Cavendish's non-stop ambitions, British sport continues to grow all the richer.
1 V Nibali (It) Astana84:53:28
2 R Uran (Col) Team Sky +4:43
3 C Evans (Aus) BMC +5:52
4 M Scarponi (It) Lampre +6:48
5 C Betancur (Col) AG2R +7:28
6 P Niemiec (Pol) Lampre +7:43
7 R Majka (Pol) Saxo +8:09
8 B Intxausti (Sp) Movistar +10:26
9 M Santambrogio (It) Vini +10:32
10 D Pozzovivo (It) AG2R +10:59
Final points standings 1. M Cavendish (GB) Omega 158; 2. Nibali (It) Astana 128; 3. Evans (Aus) BMC 111; 4. Betancur (Col) AG2R 108
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