Cavendish claims the pressure is off after notching up his first victory of this year’s Tour
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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Cavendish claims the pressure is off after notching up his first victory of this year’s Tour

by VeloNation Press at 6:03 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
“I didn't feel great today but when the guys are committed like they were, it's important to pay them back”

Mark CavendishGetting things right after several frustrating days at the Tour de France, Mark Cavendish clocked up his 24th individual stage win at the Tour de France today and continued advancing towards his goal of taking the most stages ever.

The British champion’s success ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) was his first of this year’s Tour, and came four days after an opening stage were he was delayed by a large crash in the bunch.

Commenting after the finish, he said that notching up the first success of the race meant that he was able to be more relaxed about the rest of the Tour. That’s speaking relatively, though, as he is highly ambitious about the remaining two and a half weeks.

“The pressure is now off for sure, because we've won a stage of the Tour de France,” he said. “It would have been nice to win yesterday but it's not to be underestimated how hard it is to get one stage win on this race.”
Cavendish revealed that he was not in top shape, due perhaps to the chest infection he has suffered in the Toru and the antibiotics he had to take. However supported well by his Omega Pharma Quick Step team, he said that he was able to scoop victory.

“I didn't feel great today but when the guys are committed like they were – not just in the final, but all the way today – it's important to pay them back. They show their motivation by riding themselves into the ground and, like I always say, that really does give you something extra.”

Today was his first time since Saturday’s opening stage to be involved in the finishing sprint, and he seized the chance, leaving little doubt as to his superiority.

“I usually don't start winning until about the fifth stage of the Tour anyway,” Cavendish noted, effectively confirming that he is on track when compared to other years. “This has been pretty on the norm, but we were really motivated today.”

With Orica GreenEdge leading the race overall with Simon Gerrans, the Australian team did much of the chasing early on, although Cavendish’s riders – and Sylvain Chavanel in particular – did much of the pacesetting in the final twenty kilometres.

With the day’s break looking increasingly certain to come back, the biggest obstacle to a Cavendish success was the uncategorised – but nevertheless testing – climb near the end. However while it put the Briton under pressure, he said that prior knowledge of it helped him to cope.

“Jerome Pineau told me about the final climb. I knew it was always going to be difficult. When I turned left I immediately recognized it from one of my first races as a professional,” he said. “I knew exactly what climb it was as soon as I hit it heading into Marseille, and luckily I held on and I had the whole team around me to take me to the last kilometre.”

The dedicated support he enjoyed contrasted with the intermittent backing he had last year with Team Sky. He moved to Omega Pharma Quick Step over the winter in order to benefit from better leadouts, but was disappointed on several occasions this spring with how things played out.

The Giro d’Italia helped iron out the creases, though, and he now seems impressed by the way the other riders pulled around him.

“I'm super, super happy with the win today. The guys worked exactly like they wanted to the whole stage. We started the sprinting off just like we did in the Giro d'Italia. Yesterday was frustrating as we were less than a second from the stage win [in the team time trial – ed.]. Now we can celebrate, we've got good morale in the team and we boosted it even more today.”

Cavendish thanked many of his team-mates for how they rode today, and also gave particular praise to the leadout he got from Gert Steegmans.

“I sit behind Geert so I don't feel the wind all day. He stayed with me on that last climb, then we had to use the guys up in the final to catch the breakaway. Geert just stayed calm, and then he went so fast that I didn't have to accelerate off his wheel,” he said. “I just held the pace that he took me up to with 250 metres to go. I'm super happy. This is what I was employed for at Omega Pharma-Quickstep: to come here and win stages and we did that today.”

Tomorrow’s race to Marseille is one of the flattest of the race and looks destined for another sprint, although the exposed terrain makes it possible that crosswinds could break things up.

His Omega Pharma Quick Step team is one of the most experienced at using echelons, though, and Cavendish is likely to be in the thick of the action even if the peloton is fragmented.

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