By Kirsten Robbins in Paso Robles, California
Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) took his second consecutive victory at the Tour of California stage five in Paso Robles against Tom Boonen (Quick Step). The pair of world-class sprinters complimented each other, but admitted victory boils down to a perfectly timed lead-out.
"We both rely on our teams," Cavendish said. "There are only a few guys in the world who, when they are put in a good position, can sprint and can keep it [victory]. I'm lucky that most of the time my team puts me in the best possible position and I can keep it."
Boonen agreed that the team with the better lead-out is the one that will take the victory. "If Mark starts his sprint in perfect condition, like he did today, it is almost impossible to pass him. It is the same with me," Boonen said.
Columbia-Highroad's George Hincapie brought Cavendish through the one-kilometre mark and Mark Renshaw dropped him off with two hundred metres to go. No one could come around Cav before the line. "There are only four or five sprinters ... who are impossible to pass, unless they make a mistake," Boonen said. "Today I was waiting to see if Mark would lose speed because of the headwind but he kept accelerating and that's when I knew I was beaten."
Boonen focuses on Classics, not sprints
Boonen was happy to be on the podium again. His big goal is the Classics in the spring – he will take sprint victories as they come, but does not specifically prepare for them.
"I don't train on my sprint. The only things I do is try to prepare for the Classics in the spring season. But everyone expects me to also compete in all the big field sprints." Boonen said finding the balance wasn't easy. "Most of the time I think of my season as two parts. I focus on the classics and I try to be safe and not take too many risks."
After the Classics, he turns his attention to the green jersey representing the best sprinter at the Tour de France in July. "I have two different objectives and so do a different training than someone who is a pure sprinter."
Cavendish agreed that his own abilities are suited more to a bunch sprint. "I think Tom has had a lot more experience than I," Cavendish said. "He has a lot of consistency whereas I can sprint, but I'm not the most consistent rider."
Boonen's Classics campaign will open in March, with Milano-Sanremo – a race where his sprinting ability could make the difference in finally taking a win, after coming in third in 2007.