By Kirsten Robbins in Clovis, California, USA
Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-Highroad) finally secured a Tour of California stage victory on Stage 4, after two near misses for the American outfit. The Isle of Man rider, often described as the fastest man in the world, says he is under no illusions about how fast he really is.
"I'm not the strongest rider nor the best tactically minded rider either," said Cavendish. "But I'm unrivaled in the last 200 metres."
Cavendish dedicated victory to teammate Kim Kirchen, whose jacket was caught in his wheel, causing him to crash and break his collarbone during the stage. "That's a shame because I think he was going to be on for another good year," Cavendish said. "I want to send my best wishes to him and I'm glad we could win a stage for him."
Cavendish has taken back the victory that officials took from him during stage six of last year's race. Cavendish won the field sprint in Santa Clarita but officials relegated him for drafting back up to the peloton after he crashed with five kilometres to the finish.
"This is massive for me, for us and for the whole team," said Cavendish. "I thought I won one last year and it didn't get given to me. I had to win one this year and it didn't work out yesterday."
On the previous stage Cavendish wasn't able to contend for the victory, despite being amongst the top finishers. Instead teammate and lead-out man Mark Renshaw took another second place.
"There are a lot of factors that play into a sprint," explained Cavendish. "If one of them goes wrong then you aren't in contention. One or two things went wrong for us so I wasn't in contention. But bad stuff happens and you've got to make amends and that's what we did today."
Before Cavendish sprinted to victory the rider had to overcome a series of climbs that took the peloton through the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. "To be honest I wasn't planning on getting anywhere near the front in the finish today with all the climbing," Cavendish said. "The team did so, so well today and I had three or four of them who stayed with me on every climb. That really improved my morale."
Cavendish felt that the odds were in favour of him for the stage win after the final climb. "With a flat run in like that there was only one possible outcome, especially when you've got a team like mine," said Cavendish. "When they dropped me off with 100 metres to go there could only be one outcome."
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