Mark Cavendish enjoyed a birthday cake with his Dimension Data teammates on Saturday night after stage 7 of the Tour of California, but it was the present of a tenth career stage win on Sunday in the sunny state that the 'Manx Missile' was celebrating.
Cavendish was 29th on the opening stage in San Diego as rival Peter Sagan enjoyed the win, and then missed out on his 31st birthday as Alexander Kristoff took the honours. On the Sacramento circuit on the final day, Cavendish beat both riders to the win for his second visit to the podium having been given the most combative rider award on stage 4.
"Its been a tough week. Nathan [Haas] was third the other day, but we really wanted to get this stage win," Cavendish said after the stage and podium ceremony to bring the race to a close.
With a seven-man breakaway getting clear and the windy conditions possibly playing into their hands, Dimension Data sent Jacques Janse van Rensburg to the front of the peloton to control affairs, and keep them in check to ensure a bunch sprint finish. Once on the finishing circuits in Sacramento, the leaders' advantage was down to 30 seconds with Robin Carpenter (Holowesko-Citadel) and Krists Nielands (Axeon-Hagens Berman) the sole survivors as Tinkoff and Katusha joined Dimension Data in bringing it back for the sprint.
With Cavendish's team doing the lion's share of the work, the Manxman was left to freelance the finale as Katusha took over in the final kilometre and Kristoff led out the sprint. Cavendish jumped on Sagan's wheel at the beginning of the sprint and then came around the world champion with enough time to enjoy a two-arm salute once he crossed the line for his fourth win of the season.
"It was a windy day, so we had to take on the race. The guys rode out of their skins, Jacques rode the whole day on the front, and then everyone was just really going for it," Cavendish added. "We had to use our whole lead-out to catch the break, so in the end it was a bit a case of free styling. I was on Sagan's wheel and know this finish really well. I've won here before and knew that, if was in the right position I should win here."
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