A man overlooked for much of Sky’s Tour de France campaign, Mark Cavendish offered a timely reminder of his indisputable qualities on Sunday as he powered to his fourth consecutive stage victory on the Champs-Élysées.
The final day of the Tour might well have been Bradley Wiggins’ party but Paris’ most famous boulevard has become Cavendish’s private fiefdom. When Edvald Boasson Hagen led him across the Rue de Rivoli and into the finishing straight, there was more than an air of familiarity about proceedings.
“I planned to go at 300 to go. I knew I could go long, especially with the wind today,” Cavendish said. “You could go slightly early. I was going to go at 300 but we came around the last corner at such speed that I thought I'd just use my acceleration now and hopefully distance the other guys and hold on.”
The Manxman held on and more, distancing and then outstaying Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) to take his third stage win of the race. “It's an honour to be the first guy to wear the world champion's jersey while winning on the Champs-Élysées,” he said.
Cavendish’s rainbow was not the only distinctive jersey on show in the Sky line-up on Sunday, of course. He paid tribute to the efforts of Wiggins, who strung out the peloton on the final lap of the Champs-Élysées circuit, and his dauphin Chris Froome, who put in a lengthy stint on the front in the finale.
“It’s incredible to have the second on GC controlling the breakaway all day and then the yellow jersey himself leading out me and Edvald out,” Cavendish said.
With Sky’s energies devoted primarily to the defence of Wiggins’ yellow jersey, Cavendish had been largely left to his own devices in the bunch sprints, at least in comparison to his time as the only show in town at Highroad. Nonetheless, he insisted that it had not been a chore, and instead insisted that it augured well for next Saturday’s Olympic Games road race in London.
“It’s not been a difficult Tour,” he said. “We got first and second on GC. For sure, I’ve missed opportunities as a sprinter but we’ve got the yellow jersey and won six stages as a team anyway. Seven British stage wins out of 21 and four from guys who are in the GB Olympic team for next Saturday, so we’re looking forward to that now.
“Today, winning on the Champs-Elysees, was a big red cherry on top of a beautifully made cake for three weeks and it was an honour to be part of it.”
By Cavendish’s own high standards, his three stage victories might even rank as a quiet Tour, but his haul still equals that of André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and his running total of stage wins now stands at a remarkable 23.
It was not by chance, then, that L’Équipe voted Cavendish as the greatest sprinter in Tour history during this year’s race, a result that met the approval of no less a figure than André Darrigade. “I'm happy that, on numbers at least, I can be secure of that award,” Cavendish said.