By Kirsten Robbins in Kansas City, Missouri
Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia) came to the Tour of Missouri with a score to settle racing on American soil. A controversial finish at this year's Tour of California saw him cross the finish line first, only to be relegated for holding onto his team car following a crash inside the final kilometres. So despite the overlap with the Tour of Britain, the speedster from the Isle of Mann returned to American soil to right the wrong.
"It's the second time I've crossed the line first and the first race I've won," said Cavendish is a press conference following his stage 1 victory, "This is an American team and an American sponsor. It's really important for me personally and for us to do well in here - So it makes it extra special when we can get a win."
Following California he returned to Europe and went on to four convincing stage victories in the Tour de France, followed by three consecutive wins at the Tour of Ireland, and many more. The 23-year-old phenom noted the successful momentum of his team this year.
"I think we got our sponsorship off to a great start in the Tour de France, we got five stage wins and every jersey except for the polka dot, which was perfect," he said. Cavendish leads a team that has gone on to win more than 70 races this season.
"To come here and get the perfect start in the US just tops it off. It shows the commitment we have to one another and the commitment the staff and management have to us. It all pays off with results."
The cycling world would have expected Cavendish to be a main contender in his home country's race, the Tour of Great Britain. But instead he made the trip to Missouri, confident he could bring ample success for his American based sponsors.
"You know it's funny because I've just come over from Britain where it's nice and sunny... and it's raining here!" he half joked. Regardless of the weather, the event includes a number of sprint friendly stages suitable for a rider like Cavendish.
"It just made more sense for me to come over here to race," he said. "We are an American team with American sponsors and I have a point to prove here by winning. I'm really happy to be racing here, the team is really happy to be racing here, and hopefully the public is really happy that I'm here."
He reiterated his focus on Missouri but admitted that he has been following the results from the Tour of Great Britain closely. "I've had a journalist friend send me the results after the stages," he said. "It's really interesting to see some of my friends doing well back home. It was great to see Rob Hayles of Great Britain get second in the first stage behind Petacchi. Hayles is a real good friend of mine and he was instrumental in my progress as a sprinter.
"But, for right now, I'm focused on getting results over here."
Full coverage of the Tour of Missouri here.