Cycling: Cavendish picks up a hat-trick of wins as he looks to take a break

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The Independent Online

Cycling's top sprinter Mark Cavendish chalked up his ninth stage win in a major Tour in typically flamboyant style yesterday – making a devastating final charge for the finish line that once again left the opposition staring at the all-too familiar sight of the Manxman's rear bike wheel.

Despite an early crash on the Giro d'Italia's 13th stage which saw Cavendish briefly forced to stop, the Brit roared across the finish in Florence a good bikelength ahead of main rival Alessandro Petacchi for his third individual stage win in the race this year. It was the one he wanted the most – Florence is barely a half-hour ride from the town of Quarrata where he and numerous other British professionals are based during the season.

Cavendish had been expected to abandon the Giro to ensure he is in top condition for the sprint stages of the Tour de France. He was cagey about the subject, though, saying that he will continue to race in Italy's top event for as long as he feels in good shape. The longer Cavendish stays, though, the greater the pressure on him to quit will become.

In July Cavendish has bigger fish to fry than the Giro – the sprinter aims to become the first Brit to take the Tour's green points jersey, the top sprinting prize in cycling's blue riband event.

The green jersey is a highly ambitious project for a rider who only turned 24 on Thursday, but to judge by yesterday's sprint in Florence, Cavendish will be almost unstoppable in the Tour. After his Columbia-Highroad team-mates had faultlessly guided him through the chaos of a jostling bunch at 70kmh, with 250 metres to go the Briton powered away.

A few pedalstrokes later, Cavendish had comfortably clinched his 11th win of the season, a reminder that whether he quits the Giro or not, the Briton's domination of the bunch sprints remains beyond question.

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