By Susan Westemeyer
T-Mobile's Mark Cavendish knew what he wanted to accomplish in his first pro year: win races, and as many as possible. He didn't start out with any specific goal but at some point during the season, he decided 11 wins would be his target. He reached number 10 on September 10, in the first stage of his homeland race, the Tour of Britain. Since then he has come tantalizingly close, most recently finishing second in the second stage of the Circuit Franco-Belge after crashing in the first stage. But the third time proved lucky and he took his long-awaited 11th win Saturday in Poperinge, Belgium, when he out-sprinted Gert Steegmans (Quick.Step-Innergetic) and Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto).
"I am totally happy, that I have reached my self-set goal of 11 season victories," the 22 year-old said on the team's website, t-mobile.com. "After a few miscalculations yesterday, today it went perfectly."
Fellow sprinter Eric Baumann should have been one of Cavendish's sprint preparers, but he had to do his share of the work earlier. A four-man escape group had up to an eight-minute advantage before T-Mobile and Rabobank started the move to catch them. "That was hard because there was a strong wind. First (T-Mobile stagiaire) Ian Stannard rode at the head of the field. Then I took over. Now I'm exhausted but we were all happy at the end."
Quick.Step opened the sprint for Steegmans, who had won the previous stage. "Then Roger Hammond, with 'Cav' on his rear wheel, made his move at the right moment. And everything worked out perfectly," Baumann said.
Cavendish started the World Championships road race for Great Britain, but he did not finish it. While at the Worlds, he toldCyclingnews that while he hoped for the 11th win, "I am not optimistic about it. I am feeling the effects of a long season now. I could perhaps pick one up in Franco-Belge but I am not going to risk life and limb for it either." The young Manxman must have changed his mind after being so close and yet so far from his goal.