For the second year in a row Mark Cavendish proved himself to be the World's pre-eminent sprinter after he dominated cycling's sprint scene in 2009. The Columbia-HTC rider took the most number of sprint wins, followed closely by teammate André Greipel. Garmin's Tyler Farrar's strong end-of-season saw the US rider make his mark, while formerly dominant sprinter Tom Boonen slipped away from the top of the list.
Cavendish, 24, recorded 23 wins, including victory at Italian Classic Milan-Sanremo. He took four stages at the Giro d'Italia (including the team time trial) and six Tour de France stage wins. 2009 has also marked a big increase in wins over 2008, when he achieved a season total of 17 victories.
The only rider to challenge the speedy Manxman was his own teammate, Greipel. The 27-year-old German took 20 wins, despite missing over three months to shoulder surgery. His four Vuelta a España stage wins also brought him something that Cavendish was unable to achieve, the points jersey at a Grand Tour. The season was also a performance increase for the strong German, who had finished with 14 wins in 2008.
Farrar's series of late-season victories saw him improve from one win in 2008 to 11 this year. Three of those came in the first half of the season, with the final eight, including the overall title in Franco-Belge, achieved from August through October. In the nine instances where the 25-year-old and Cavendish rode against each other and one of them won, Cavendish had the clear upper hand, winning eight of the matches.
In contrast to the ascendancy of his rivals, the second most successful rider of 2008, Tom Boonen (Quick Step), had only seven wins in 2009. In a season dominated by incidents off-the-bike the 29-year-old former World Champion has appeared to move away from the profile of a pure sprinter to that of a traditional Classics rider.
Cervélo's Thor Hushovd, 31, who took the sprinter's jersey at the Tour de France, claimed a total of seven victories this year.
The Columbia-HTC sprinters may face more competition next year, as Alessandro Petacchi moves back into the ProTour with Lampre. The Italian, 35, had a strong year with LPR Brakes, taking 10 wins in mainly smaller races. However, Petacchi is one of very few riders to get the better of Cavendish this season. He defeated the British rider on his way to one of two Giro d'Italia stage wins.
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