By Brecht Decaluwé in Châteauroux
When Mark 'the Manx Express' Cavendish crossed the line in Châteauroux, it was clear he had pulled off something extraordinary - he had added a Tour stage victory to his palmarés at the young age of 23. Already the winner of two Grand Tour stages at the Giro d'Italia, the Team Columbia rider was exhilarated by his stage five finish.
"Oh my god," Cavendish screamed as he came to a stop. A gleam of pride shone in the Brit's eyes as he looked around and saw all the TV-crews sprinting towards him. Unimpressed by the media scrum, Cavendish spotted his Austrian team-mate Bernhard Eisel and gave him a big hug. He spotted several other team-mates like George Hincapie and thanked them for their lead-out work. "This was great guys, brilliant work," Cavendish shouted before he was pulled away towards the podium for the ceremony.
A few moments later the curly haired Brit hopped in the musty interview truck next to the finish line in Châteauroux. Cavendish still couldn't believe what he had just achieved. "Although I won quite a lot in the past, the only thing that mattered was a win in the Tour de France. I was anxious to do it. Today I'm proud to be on top of the podium. Even though I am only 23, this means a lot to me."
Cavendish was sure to give full credit to his team for the stage win. "When you have a team like I have, it's impossible not to win. We've got such a diverse team. We had a lot of top-5 finishes. We're able to switch positions. In the end we had the whole team - all nine riders - in front," he said.
That confidence in his team was evident at the Columbia team presentation in Brest, where he weighed his chances at a stage win. "People should be happy if they beat me. I just say what I think. If I think that I am the fastest, I'll say it," he smiled. "I don't have fear to lose a sprint, but I am just a bad loser. Honestly with such a team behind you - they do so much for me - I see it as a failure if I don't win a sprint."
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