Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) took his third Scheldeprijs title on Wednesday in a thrilling sprint over Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) and Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ).
The Manx Missile launched his sprint with around 250 meters to go, avoiding a pile up that involved sprint rivals Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) and Chris Sutton (Team Sky).
After he crossed the line he was quick to share his win with his teammates, and as they crossed the line one by one, each of them received a warm hug and thank you.
It was Cavendish’s first appearance in the race since 2008 and made up for his crash in Gent-Wevelgem last week when he had been in contention until a fall within the final 20 kilometres.
“I’d missed the race for the last two years and I was really upset to miss it. I won it the first two years I rode it and then didn’t ride it in 2009 and 2010 because I had a busy programme and it was upsetting. So I was really glad to be back and the team were really, really incredible,” he told the press at the finish.
“I said I wanted to win today and the team were incredible to back me up. They worked all day and rode a great tempo on the front and then Bernie Eisel kept me near the front on the last lap into every corner and then Leigh Howard was my lead out man today. He had to go early but he was incredible and strung the peloton out.
“CJ Sutton went for a long one and had Hutarovich on his wheel and I slotted onto his wheel and I knew then with 250 meters to go that as long as my sprint was okay I should be all right.”
Scheldeprijs is a race that helped shoot Cavendish into the big leagues and was his first professional win back in 2007 when he beat Robbie McEwen and Geert Steegmans to the line.
In his post-race press conference Cavendish talked about his wins here in 2007 and 2008 and voiced his opinion that sprints had become more dangerous.
“I’ve been a bit nervous this year and we came around with a lap to go and I said to Thor [Hushovd] am I getting old and he said now this is crazy. I’ve been wondering have I been getting old and nervous - cycling is changing and it’s just a fucking free for all nowadays and it’s pretty dangerous. I’ve never been nervous before but now I’m scared,” he said.
“I think there’s so much pressure to do well in every race now. It’s a long season and every race matters and there’s more than one captain in each team now. It’s a free for all. It makes it very different.”
“There are a lot of sprinters around now and there’s a lot of second tier sprinters who can get a look in and they’re going to have a go and fair play you can’t give them shit for having a go but it certainly makes it more chaotic.”