Despite a glittering career that now includes 27 stage wins in the Tour de France, the one missing garment in Mark Cavendish's wardrobe was a maillot jaune. Now, after a Tour career stretching back almost a decade, the British sprinter finally has the most prized jersey in all of cycling.
After misses in Corsica and Yorkshire through previous years, this win at Utah Beach will feel all the sweeter, especially for a rider many had written off.
Heading into the first stage of this year's Tour most pundits and commentators would have put their money on either Andre Greipel or Marcel Kittel – the two sprinters who have dominated the Tour in the last few years. Their form, their immensely powerful leadouts, and Cavendish's route to the Tour via a mix of road and track, combined to suggest that the German pair were the favourites.
But Cavendish (Dimension Data) is a rider who can never be counted out. His leadout lacked numbers in the final kilometre on stage 1 but it was the smartest and coolest, letting the Katusha and Lotto trains duke it out before Cavendish – well positioned by a string of Dimension Data riders – took over.
His guile and speed of thought have always been underrated and overshadowed in the past by his pure speed, but all of those qualities were demonstrated on stage 1. He snuck onto the back of Griepel's leadout man and then he anticipated an early move from Peter Sagan, allowing the world Champion to virtually lead him to the line. Even with Marcel Kittel bearing down on, he had enough in reserve the hold the opposition at bay.
A stage, a green jersey, finally beating Marcel Kittel and most importantly of all, finally wearing the yellow jersey, Mark Cavendish proved that he is far from a spent force.
Daniel Benson: On the eve of the Tour many felt that Cavendish was a spent force. He had won 'just' a single stage last year – and his combination of track and road this season had led to understandable questions over his form. Winning in California answered the critics to some degree but the Tour is a different beast entirely. This wasn't his best sprint win at the Tour but it was certainly one of the most important – for his Tour, for his team, for his summer, and his career.
- Mark Cavendish wins stage 1 of the Tour de France
- Tour de France stage 1 video highlights
- Mark Cavendish claims first Tour de France yellow jersey of his career at Utah Beach
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