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Video: Cavendish captures the biggest prize at the Worlds

Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) in his rainbow jersey

Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) in his rainbow jersey (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

New world champion Mark Cavendish said victory was the culmination of a three-year project and that he was simply the last part in an eight-man machine that delivered Great Britain's first world title in nearly 50 years at the UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sunday.

Speaking at the post-race press conference, today Cavendish said, "I won San Remo a few years ago, but for me this jersey, because I can't win the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, signifies the biggest thing I can win. I get to wear the rainbow jersey all of next year and have the bands on my sleeve for the rest of my life. I wear this on behalf of everybody else in the team."

He said the architect of the plan was his coach Rod Ellingworth, who is also a coach at Team Sky, and that it began as soon as Copenhagen was announced as the host city in 2008. Not since Tom Simpson, 46 years ago in San Sebastian, has a Briton worn the rainbow jersey.

Cavendish's current HTC-Highroad trade teammate, Australia's Matt Goss came second with Germany's André Greipel rounding off the podium.

Cavendish added that the victory was part-shared by the "13 or 14 ProTour [sic] professionals who worked hard to secure points to get as many people here as possible."

Just like in the aftermath of his victories for the HTC-Highroad squad, which will fold at the end of the season, the Manxman heaped praise on his GB teammates and singled out Bradley Wiggins for particular admiration.

"The guys rode out of their skin today. We used eight guys to maximum efficiency to win the world championship.

"We were getting attacked every which way by every nation near the end, and the guys just held it together. Bradley rode pretty much the last lap on his own, holding the breaks. I was just the last part of an incredible eight-man machine today."

In the conference, Cavendish also took a pot-shot at commentators who suggested the finish was too hard for him.

"I was down as a favourite with a lot of people today but as per usual, some uneducated people said it was too hard for pure sprinters. [A] 300m uphill is not too hard. It's a sprint, simple as. It was just like any other sprint, just 15km an hour slower."

In the final few hundred metres, after leaving the wheel of teammate Geraint Thomas, he said he feared he was going to be boxed in. When a gap opened with 200m to go, he kicked for the line close to the barriers on the right-hand side of the road.

"I wanted to go with 150m to go, but a gap opened at 200m. I know when I kick whether I'm going to win or not, and I knew today I was going to cross the line first. I saw Gossy come close to me at the end, but you know these are two of the greatest sprinters in the world so I knew it wasn't going to be a walk in the park," said the Manxman.

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Sam started as a trainee reporter on daily newspapers in the UK before moving to South Africa where he contributed to national cycling magazine Ride for three years. After moving back to the UK he joined Procycling as a staff writer in November 2010.