Cycling: Mark Cavendish makes it 21 in solo style on Tour de France

Cavendish sprints to an incredible 21st stage win

With the Tour de France

Mark Cavendish proved yesterday with a stunning victory in Tournai that, even without the cohorts of support riders he had in previous Tours, the British world champion remains a force to be reckoned with in the bunch sprints. Indeed this, his 21st Tour stage win, must count as one of the finest of his career.

For four Tours, from 2008 to 2011, Cavendish could rely on a "train" of riders from his HTC squad to guide him to 200 metres from the line. The Manxman would blast off for victory after victory. "Without them [his former HTC squad] I can still win, but with them I can't lose," Cavendish used to say.

Given that his 2012 team, Sky, are fully focused on Bradley Wiggins' bid to become Britain's first ever Tour winner this season, Cavendish was able to prove yesterday that those words were no boasting, darting away 100 metres from the line to take the 206.5-kilometre (130-mile) stage from Visé alone and unaided by barely half a wheel over Lotto's German rider André Greipel.

This was a far tighter margin than usual for him but it was a win that – with no team support – owed as much to Cavendish's skilful positioning and fine judgement as it did to raw power.

Cavendish's joy at being able to clinch his earliest victory in the Tour since 2009 – usually it takes several days of fine-tuning for him to find his top form – was palpable, and he said he had found that racing alone made him less tense than usual.

"I've never been so relaxed before the start of a Tour stage – normally I have so much pressure, because with dedicated riders for me, that means I should win most of the time," Cavendish said afterwards.

"If you've just got one or two riders as support, in the Tour de France where you're weaving between sprinters and general classification riders, it [having the support riders] is more hassle than it's worth.

"[My Sky team-mates] Bernie Eisel and Edvald Boasson were always there in case something happened, never far away, but five kilometres from the finish I said that I would go for it alone, give it a shot."

Cavendish's 21 stage victories make him the Tour's fifth most prolific winner, just one short of Lance Armstrong and the race's top all-time sprinter, the 1950s star André Darrigade. However, Cavendish feels he is making his own contribution to the history of the sport in other ways.

"I always said I wanted to make history, but there are not many better ways to make history than being part of a Tour team that could produce a British winner," he said.

He said yesterday also gave him the chance to carry the world champion's rainbow jersey to victory in the world's greatest stage race. "Maybe every few minutes when I'm training or racing I look down at the [rainbow] bands of world champion and it makes me feel proud," Cavendish said. "I've got massive respect for every rider who has worn it, and I wanted to honour it here in the Tour."

Overall, Wiggins remains in joint second behind Fabian Cancellara. Today's stage, with five short, punchy climbs in the last 20km on the windblasted English Channel coastline, is far less suited to Cavendish but it could be crucial for Wiggins and the other major Tour contenders. A crash, puncture or failure to be close to the front, if the bunch should split in what promises to be a fraught finale, could end a rider's overall chances.

That will make the run into Boulogne one of the most difficult stages of the first week: not so much for winning the race, but merely for the right to remain in contention.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



Suggested Topics
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
News
Youngsters around the country living it up in des-res two-storey garden mansions with a balcony
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Extras
indybest
Life & Style
tech
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal