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Cavendish joins ranks of triple Grand Tour stage winners

Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia)

Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

In claiming stage 12 of the 2010 Tour of Spain in Lleida, Mark Cavendish has joined Simon Gerrans, Alessandro Petacchi, Pablo Lastras, David Zabriskie, Denis Menchov and Daniele Bennati in the circle of the current professional riders who have won at least one stage individually in each of the three Grand Tours.

The Brit also imitated his compatriot Malcolm Elliott who was the stage winner the last time the Vuelta had a stage finish in the Catalan town of Lleida, 21 years ago.

"To do at the Vuelta what Malcolm did before is special for me," Cavendish said. "He still races when I race back at home," he added about the 49-year-old from Sheffield who now races for Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta on the British scene.

The "Manx-Express" joked, "I'm not quite good looking like him but I try to be as good on a bike as he was...

"Everyone knows the passion I have for these races," said Cavendish of the Vuelta and the other Grand Tours. "I used to watch them as a kid. To stand on the podium is pretty special."

As much as a true winner he is, the sprinter from the Isle of Man admitted that he tried to give the stage win in Lleida to his lead-out man Matt Goss.

"Matt has done an incredible job today," Cavendish said. "I kind of wanted to give him the stage like I did two years ago at the Giro (to Andre Greipel) because I did nothing for winning today. The team did everything. I was brought to the finish by my team. I'm grateful for that. But I looked behind and other riders were coming across. So I really had to take the win. When I put my hands up, it was for my teammates, not for myself."

The star from HTC-Columbia wasn't as successful as expected in the early bunch sprints of the Vuelta. "It would have been nice to win one of the first stages but we had bad luck with punctures and I got boxed in," he said. "I didn't fail because of a lack of form. It's nice to win again but it's not a relief. I'm happy but not relieved."

We can expect to see more from Cavendish before the end of the race, as he has big plans not only to finish the Vuelta, but to equal Elliott's feat of 1989 and go on to win the points classification as well.

"I want to finish the Vuelta before going to the world championship with my two teammates David Millar and Jeremy Hunt and I'd like to win the green jersey here," said Cavendish who now leads the points competition ahead of Tyler Farrar. "I usually say that it comes from stage wins but here it's different because the same number of points is allocated to mountain stages and flat stages, so it's not just a big fight between sprinters. It also depends on who wins what in the mountains too. I'll try to get to Madrid and fight for intermediate sprints."