Tour de France: Cavendish treble helps lift gloom

His right hand was raised high with three fingers pointing skywards as he crossed the finish line yesterday, Mark Cavendish's victory salute confirming that he had just become the first Briton to win three stages in a major Tour. The 23-year-old sprinter powered across the line at Narbonne with three-quarters of a bike length advantage over his closest rival, Sebastian Chavanel of France – less than his previous victories at Châteauroux and Toulouse.

"You can tell that I'm getting really tired, that's why I didn't have such a big gap, but I'm still really pleased to be the first Briton to get three stages," he said. "It's nice, too, that I've won under very different conditions." There was baking heat for his first win, a torrential downpour for the second and gale-force winds yesterday.

Despite his success the Manxman was not as optimistic as usual about his chances of making it to Paris. "I want to keep going for as long as possible but I'll take it day by day," he said. "I can't say if I'll be in Paris for the Champs-Elysées sprint, but I'll try as best I can."

His win was overshadowed by Riccardo Ricco, who became the third rider to test positive for the red blood cell booster EPO in this year's race. Unlike the previous two, Manuel Beltran and Moises Duenas Nevado, the Italian was one of the highest-profile figures on this year's Tour. He was the winner of two mountain stages and leader of the "king of the mountains" and the "best young rider" competitions.

A late addition for Saunier Duval-Scott, Ricco had raised suspicions when he began predicting the Tour stages he would win and he had been targeted for testing because of his abnormally high hematocrit levels – the volume of red blood cells. The roof finally fell in just half an hour before yesterday's start in Lavalanet.

Ninth overall before his abrupt departure, a visibly shocked Ricco was driven away in a team car surrounded by police outriders. The cheers which had greeted him in the Pyrenees and Massif Centrale were replaced by boos. "It's a total catastrophe," said Piotr Algeri, Ricco's manager in the Saunier Duval team. "I can't understand why he did these things after everything that's happened before. I quit. I've had enough." His team were quick to follow suit, pulling out en masse from the race and suspending all activities.

Ricco's exit represents a huge step backwards for the Tour in its attempts to recover from last year's débâcle. "It makes you think that nothing has changed," said Britain's David Millar. "In general when you see incredible performances it's because they're not true." He could have been referring to Ricco's in the mountains.

The race leader Cadel Evans was in defiant mood, arguing that one reason for cycling's perpetual drugs crisis is the high number of tests it does in comparison to other sports. "Cycling is being crucified for doing the right thing," he argued.

Cavendish, whose Columbia team have a rigorous, independently run anti-doping programme, was upbeat. "I've been in the sport for a year and a half and want to be in it for many years to come," he said. "So for me to see the sport being cleaned up day by day is a perfect thing."

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for www.cyclingweekly.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker