Cycling: Cavendish rides into top form

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The Independent Online

British sprint phenomenon Mark Cavendish continued an impressive warm-up for the Tour de France with his second stage victory in four days in the Tour of Switzerland.

Cavendish took full advantage of one of Switzerland's few flat stages to seize his 13th victory of the season ahead of the three-times World Champion Oscar Freire.

Cavendish's career tally of stage victories now stands at 40 – meaning that in three years, the Columbia-Highroad pro has matched the total that Chris Boardman, Britain's most prolific winner, managed to achieve in more than twice that time.

Curiously enough, Cavendish's victory is also Columbia-Highroad's 40th of the year, making them the most successful squad to date in 2009.

This win is the strongest indication yet that, condition-wise, Cavendish can compete for the Tour de France's green jersey, awarded to the rider who wins the most points in sprints. This is a huge step forward for British cycling: the last UK-born rider to go for any of the Tour's top prizes was Robert Millar in 1984, when Cavendish was two months old.

The Manxman's win coincided with a Tour de France announcement that it was barring one of his major rivals, Tom Boonen. The Belgian, winner of the points competition in 2007, has recently tested positive for the third time for out-of-competition use of cocaine. A press release stated tersely that Boonen's "image and behaviour were incompatible with the Tour de France."

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