Tour de France: Final stage victory key for Cavendish


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The Independent Online

For the main favourites, today's final stage on to the Champs Elysées is largely ceremonial. But for Mark Cavendish the long, slightly uphill sprint this afternoon is not just the chance of a fourth straight win on cycling's most famous boulevard – it also represents the World Champion's final dress-rehearsal for next Saturday's opening road-race of the Olympics.

Following Friday's second 2012 Tour stage win, one of the most impressive displays of power in his career, Cavendish has little left to prove. That victory was intimidating enough and a sign that when he said he has never felt so good so late in the Tour, his words were no mere propaganda.

However, a 23rd stage win today would make Cavendish the fourth most prolific winner in the race's history, ahead of Lance Armstrong. This would be the cherry on the cake for British cycling, not to mention Sky, after the country's most successful Tour. And it would ratchet up the pressure on his Olympic rivals just that little bit more.

Every success Cavendish racks up increases his status as favourite – and the feeling among the public that he is unbeatable. Given the Olympic road-race is a far more difficult objective, more than twice the distance and over tougher terrain than today's largely flat 120-kilometre stage into Paris, a gold in London cannot be taken for granted.