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McEwen vs. Cavendish: great battles ahead

Mark Cavendish (Columbia): the next Robbie McEwen?

Mark Cavendish (Columbia): the next Robbie McEwen? (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)

The sprint finishes at the upcoming Tour de France will, as ever, be highly contested. The last kilometres to the line have always been dramatic moments when the peloton arrived groupé at the Grand Tour, but this year it seems spectators may see more chaotic finishes than in the past, as big lead-out trains like the ones for Alessandro Petacchi, Tom Boonen or Daniele Bennati will be missing. Instead, it would seem fast and sneaky men like Robbie McEwen and Mark Cavendish could have an advantage as both are known for their suppleness in hopping from one wheel to the next until their final effort to the finish line.

"Mark reminds me of myself," said the Davitamon-Lotto sprint veteran McEwen about his younger rival according to Sportwereld. "There is one difference between us and the other sprinters: We see the holes, and the rest sees the other riders. You need some nerve to go for the holes... but most riders are fair enough to let the [gap] open."

The Australian continued to praise the Columbia rider, while at the same time promising a hardliner's fight for the stage wins. "Cavendish is not the man of the future, he is already the man of the present," he said. "When you see how he let his team-mate Greipel win at the Giro... classy. But I've still got it in me, too. In the smaller races, I do avoid the dangers. But in July, I don't think of my life anymore, my family or any injuries. I put my body at risk for one stage victory at the Tour."

Cavendish, meanwhile, didn't think he could do without any help at all in the sprint finales, and admitted the sprint finishes made him nervous. "Without a team, you never win in the Tour," he said. "I need at least one man at my service. The stage finishes are so hectic. I may be the fastest man in the last 200 metres, but I still have to get there in the first place. I got a lesson last year in the first week of the Tour. In Canterbury, I was so mad that I started to cry."

Still, the young Columbia rider has come a long way since last year. "The two sprint victories in the Giro had quite an effect," he continued. "I feel that they have respect for me at last. Now, they're fighting for my wheel – it's ironic!"

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