By Brecht Decaluwé in Toulouse
Three days after his first stage win in the Tour de France, Mark Cavendish captured another bunch sprint win in Toulouse during the eighth stage of the Tour de France. Cavendish sprinted to a win with a comfortable lead over his rivals, and German team-mate Gerald Ciolek even managed to make it a glorious one-two for the Columbia team, which continues to hold the yellow jersey with Kim Kirchen.
Although Cavendish is winning the bunch sprints, it is Kirchen who is scoring the most points despite not being the pure sprinter. After the race, Cavendish talked about his own green ambitions and his desire to make it to Paris, and although Kirchen is enjoying his time in yellow, he is still is keeping an eye on the green jersey even after Oscar Freire (Caisse d'Epargne), who finished fourth in Toulouse, scored just enough points to take over the green jersey from him.
"I knew I would lose the jersey today, but I'm focused on the mountains now," said Kirchen. "If I have the opportunity to score points without risks then I'll certainly try. The green is still important."
While Cavendish will need all the strength he has to make it to the finish while beating time cuts during the upcoming mountains stages, Kirchen will be battling for the general classification.
"I wore the yellow jersey for three days in a row now and that's amazing," said Kirchen of his time in yellow. "It's unbelievable to ride in the peloton with the yellow jersey. It's every rider's dream to wear the yellow jersey. I waited for that for 10 years and now this dream comes true," Kirchen said.
"The stage started very fast and there were a lot of hills," said Kirchen of his efforts on Saturday. "It wasn't easy to control the race for us. The breakaway was formed a bit late, but we controlled it well and in the sprint, we did another great job. I was feeling well and had no problems at all."
Cavendish's stage win moved him up in the points classification. The "Manx Express" is trailing leader Oscar Freire by 33 points and another win could bring him within reach of the green jersey. Although Cavendish said to Cyclingnews before the Tour that he wouldn't be battling for the green jersey, he might change his mind after his two stage wins. "It wasn't an objective when I came into the Tour, and it's still not a real goal," Cavendish said. "I don't think I'm physically capable of fighting for it for three weeks in a row, although I'm close. You've got to be consistent enough to be up there all the time."
Fighting is just what Cavendish did Saturday although in doing so, he managed to enjoy the last kilometer. "There was a really tight turn to the right [with 1.2 kilometres to go]. I lost the wheel from [team-mate Gerald] Ciolek, but didn't panic as I spotted him three positions ahead of me. I could move up, and when he accelerated, he did the perfect lead-out for me. Having Gerald in second position was beautiful and retaining the yellow jersey was beautiful too," Cavendish said.
The peloton will head for the Alps on Sunday for stages not so well suited to Cavendish, who said he will try to make it to Paris even with both the Alps and the Pyrenees still to come and his plans to compete in the Madison with Bradley Wiggins at the Olympic Games.
"I'm going to try as I haven't got the intention to stop. I said the same in the Giro d'Italia, and I kept my word and made it to Milano. It wouldn't be fair to my team-mates, my sponsors and the organizers. Every day I'll give everything I have and we'll see where I can get," Cavendish said.
Not fazed by the rain on stage eight, Cavendish was obviously happy to be out racing. "I worked in a bank when I was younger and I don't mind whether it's raining or whether it's too hot... as long as I can ride my bike I'm the luckiest man in the world."