Omega Pharma-Quick Step sprinter goes deep
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) sat on the floor gasping for air several minutes after producing yet another perfect sprint finish to take his fourth victory in this year's Giro d'Italia.
The Manxman has now won 101 victories in his career. He makes sprinting look easy but turned himself inside out and squeezed every last ounce of speed from his legs to pay his teammates back for all the work they did during the 254km stage.
While other teams feigned fatigue and refused to help chase the break, Omega Pharma-Quick Step accepted their responsibility and ensured the race came back together. While other sprinters wee shelled from the peloton on the series of nasty late climbs, Cavendish fought to stay on, determined to pay back his teammates for their hard work.
He usually stops in the road and hugs them after crossing the line. This time they fought through the scrum of photographers to find him on the floor and celebrate together.
"It could be a cliché to say it's my team that gives me the motivation to win but the confidence they have in me, even when I say I don’t want to sprint, is a huge factor for me," he explained in his winner's press conference.
Cavendish admitted that he is more motivated by the hard work of his teammates than anything he does himself.
"They ride 100 per cent until they can't ride anymore. I said I couldn't win today but they rode from kilometre zero. Cannondale didn't want to ride today but then they went full gas in the finale. My team is different. They pulled every single ounce out of themselves to pull it off and so I had to finish it off. If I don’t do it, I can't sleep at night.
“That's the difference for me. I can do miraculous things when I have a team that believes I can do it as well. I'm on form in the head and my heart.”
Despite winning four from four in this year's Giro d'Italia, Cavendish insisted he is not physically at his best but he is mentally strong and even looking forward to races later in the season.
"I'm still not at my best but I'm good," he said.
"More than physically good I'm mentally in a good place. I finally know what this team can do and they showed it in this Giro. More than in good form in my legs, I'm on form in the head and my heart and that makes me excited for the next races."
Cavendish was tired after racing and winning in the rain in Treviso on Thursday. He felt obliged to sprint and win after his teammates began to work for him.
"When I'm tired, I don't usually win. This wasn't a normal sprint. It was a long stage, there were climbs in the final kilometres and not easy climbs either," he explained.
"I said I didn't want to sprint but then the directeur sportif told the guys to start working. That's when I realised I had to step up and do the sprint. I'm lucky that my team is perfect, they were always with me on the climbs, in the wind, in the sprint. You can't do that if you're not 100 per cent."
Just Brescia left to win
Cavendish extended his lead in the red points jersey competition but is not targeting the competition this year, accepting he will have one more chance of victory, on the final stage in Brescia. First he has to tackle the mountain stages of the final week.
“The Vicenza stage is signalled in red as a day for the sprinters but the late climb is too hard for me, so only Brescia is left for me," he said.
"The mountain stages are just about survival, for me and for the guys. It's exactly the same on the flat or the mountains: we stay together and we ride the best we can from start to finish. We suffer like the best riders but just go slower. The mountains are part of a Grand Tour. If you don't get over the mountain you can't contest the sprints."