Cavendish takes his first Classic win
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cavendish takes his first Classic win

by Steve Jones at 12:23 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Race Reports and Results
 
Today Mark Cavendish proved that determination is much more important than age as he crossed the line winning Milan-Sanremo by millimeters over Cervelo TestTeam teammates Heinrich Haussler and Thor Hushovd.

Today Mark Cavendish proved that determination is much more important than age as he crossed the line winning Milan-Sanremo by millimeters over Cervelo TestTeam teammates Heinrich Haussler and Thor Hushovd.

In a race touted as the ultimate test of endurance for the sprinters - the fastman's dream - the 23-year-old again broke the mold and took the first Classic win of his young career. Likely surprising everyone but himself.

The typical formula for the nearly 300 kilometer race ensued from the start, where the obligatory suicide break looked to earn some television time for their sponsors. But as always, once the Cipressa and Poggio were on the horizon, the break was doomed with a place in the history books on offer.

On the climb of the Cipressa Tirreno-Adriatico winner Michele Scarponi from Diquigiovanni went to the front and set a stiff pace to try to shed the sprinters for his teammate Davide Rebellin. While a couple of gaps formed from his effort, there wasn't enough damage done for the front group to stay away on the descent.

As the race headed for the Poggio LPR Brakes and Cevelo TestTeam were on the front, until the Caisse d`Epargne team, working for Paris-Nice winner Luis Leon Sanchez, took the reigns positioning their man for the final climb and the finish.

For the first half of the Poggio there were no attacks, which was surprising considering the group was full of world-class sprinters. Waiting in the wings were Cavendish, Tom Boonen and Allan Davis from Quick-Step, Heinrich Haussler and Thor Hushovd from Cervelo TestTeam, and Italians Daniele Benatti from Liquigas, Luca Paolini from Acqua & Sapone.  Former Milan-Sanremo winners Filippo Pozzato from Katusha and Alessandro Petacchi from LPR Brakes were also still in the group.

Davide Rebellin made the first attack on the Poggio, but he left it too late and was quickly reeled in by the sprinters teams. Filippo Pozzato, who looked to be pedalling very smoothly up the climb, countered Rebellin's move and was quickly followed by Nicolas Roche from AG2r and Vincenzo Nibali from Liquigas as they crested the top.

On the nervous descent of the Poggio the gaps were too close to threaten a sprint finish.  Team Columbia - High Road's veteran George Hincapie made the decision of the day when he realized his man Cavendish had drifted towards the back of the group.  Hincapie sat up and waited for his young sprinter so he could try to move him into position for the sprint.

As the descent ended Caisse d`Epargne's Luis Leon Sanchez tried the move that brought victory to Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara last year, but he was quickly brought back.

On the run up to the finish Hincapie dropped Cavendish into position and then began to drill the pace to keep the group from bunching up. As the sprint unfolded with 500 meters to go, TestTeam's Haussler jumped a bit too hard for teammate Hushovd to hold his wheel, but the powerful German knew his only option was to continue to drive for the finish line and go for the win.

At 200 meters to go it looked like Haussler was going to steal the victory.  But Cavendish had other ideas, kicking in his afterburner's and rapidly closing an enormous gap to Haussler.  In the end it was Cavendish edging out the TestTeam rider with a desperate bike throw for line.

With his victory, Cavendish became the first British rider to win Milan-Sanremo since 1964 when Tom Simpson took the win.

"I felt so good all day," said Cavendish. "The team was great and kept me at the front on all of the climbs."

The combination of youth and experience on a Columbia - High Road team that has worked so well together was unbeatable in the end.

"George brought me to the front at the end," Cavendish added.

"Haussler had a large gap, and it was all about using his slipstream to close it - I was lucky and I got him on the line."

A man thought of by many as cocky and brash clearly showed his passion for the sport after what is his biggest win. As God Save the Queen played in the background, the world saw an emotional Mark Cavendish take the top step of the podium in Sanremo. The young sprinting phenom quietly contemplated his first win in a major Classic as he tried to hold back tears. With a long career ahead, a gracious Heinrich Haussler congratulated the Manxman showing he has class both on and off the bike.

Results of the 298km Milan-Sanremo Classic:

1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) 6hr 42min 31sec
2. Heinrich Haussler (GER) at 00sec
3. Thor Hushovd (NOR) 0:02
4. Allan Davis (AUS) 0:02
5. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) 0:02
6. Daniele Bennati (ITA) 0:02
7. Aitor Galdos (ESP) 0:02
8. Enrico Rossi (ITA) 0:02
9. Luca Paolini (ITA) 0:02
10. Peter Velits (SVK) 0:02
11. Lloyd Mondory (FRA) 0:02
12. Martin Elmiger (SUI) 0:02
13. Greg van Avermaet (BEL) 0:02
14. Karsten Kroon (NED) 0:02
15. Tom Boonen (BEL) 0:02

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