Mark Cavendish said he had been given a "textbook" lead-out by his Sky team-mates yesterday when he won stage three of the Tour of Britain after a sprint finish in Dumfries.
It was third time lucky on this year's tour for the world road-race champion, who is hoping to negotiate an amicable split from the successful British team. He had suffered a crash inside the last mile of the opening stage and finished second in a dash for the line at Knowsley Safari Park on Monday.
Yesterday, though, Cavendish was not to be denied after the peloton – led by his Sky team-mates Jeremy Hunt and the Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins – had finally reeled in the breakaway group heading into the final mile in the Scottish Borders.
At one point of the 95-mile route, which had started in Jedburgh, a breakaway group of IG's Peter Hawkins, Raleigh's Bernard Sulzberger, Kristian House of Rapha Condor, Peter Williams of Node4-Giordana Racing and Vacansoleil's Wesley Kreder opened up an advantage of around four minutes on the pack.
In the changeable conditions, that was being eaten away as they went into a final lap of Dumfries. Garmin's Sep Vanmarcke tried to support Kreder but the pair were caught inside the last mile and Sky's Luke Rowe, who claimed his first professional stage win on Sunday at Norwich, then provided the perfect lead-up for Cavendish to take the line ahead of Monday's stage winner, Australian Leigh Howard of Orica-GreenEdge.
Second place was enough for Howard to take over the race leader's jersey, with Aidis Kruopis of Orica third and Rowe in fourth.
Cavendish said: "The finish was downhill so I knew I could go pretty early and had the perfect lead-out. Luke was so fast at the end, Berny [Bernhard Eisel] before him, and Brad also kept them strung out. It was pretty textbook."
The race heads to Carlisle today for the 97-mile fourth stage to Blackpool. Should Cavendish again perform well, the Manxman could himself move into contention for the overall Tour lead. However, he said: "I've done it before and am wearing the world champion's jersey and only have a couple more days, so would like to savour that more than anything."