In what looked like a perfect training ride for the collective race against the clock in Montpellier on Tuesday, Team Columbia-HTC impressively delivered Mark Cavendish to the line for his second Tour de France stage victory this year.
Today, the Manxman did not only reiterate his supremacy in fast finishes but his team showed that it had the power to split the bunch in two, isolating Cavendish from his rivals with 30 kilometres to go - well before the finishing straight.
Chasing the day's early breakaway, the outfit managed by Bob Stapleton put on a fierce pace along the Mediterranean coastline, strung out in front of the peloton. When the direction changed, the wind took many riders by surprise, and those who hadn't paid attention had to settle for the second group.
"There was no tactic to split the field," Cavendish said in the finish in La Grande-Motte. "We knew it was going to be windy, so it was a case of staying in the front. Saxo Bank rode all day, they did a perfect job, and there was no other team of sprinters who wanted to take the race on. It was lucky for us."
Cavendish insisted the split had not been part of the team's objectives for the day. "We didn't plan it, it just so happened that we were at the front when the wind changed. At that time, it seemed like the perfect moment, so we went. But it wasn't planned 10 minutes before, or even 30 seconds before, it just happened at the right time and that's when we hit it."
The man who scored his sixth Tour de France victory today couldn't help but smile, enjoying another well-deserved moment. "The other sprinters' teams were saving themselves for the team time trial tomorrow," he supposed.
"You could really appreciate how strong we were as a squad and we took a lot of time out of the guys behind. In the end, if you take it on, you're going to succeed. And that's what we did. We were riding for the win, and we can be content now. It makes it all the more sweeter that the riders of the teams who wanted to ride like juniors got results like juniors," he added.
Again, Mark Renshaw was the last man riding the Columbia train to another day of perfection. "It was hard as there was a headwind, and we had used all our guys up with Tony Martin, George Hincapie and Michael Rogers," Cavendish said, praising his team-mate and making it sound as easy as a Sunday's stroll around the park.
"So it was left to just me and Mark Renshaw, and Mark showed his experience as the best lead-out man in the world. He took me to 200 metres to go in the headwind, and he didn't slow down at all, he kept the pace and I was able to swing right off his wheel to take my win."
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