Sat, Jul 09, 2016 - Page 16 News List

‘Manx Missile’ wins sixth stage in France

AP, MONTAUBAN, France

Team Dimension Data rider Mark Cavendish, center, crosses the line to win stage 6 of the Tour de France in Montauban on Thursday.

Photo: EPA

Mark Cavendish started the Tour de France fearing that his training on the track for the Olympic Games would affect his chances of stage wins at cycling’s biggest race.

After the sprinter from the Isle of Man posted a third stage win in less than a week, it is now obvious that the long hours spent on the boards have helped him improve his speed.

The 31-year-old “Manx Missile” used his great tactical sense and impressive burst of speed to win the sixth stage of the three-week race in another sprint finish on Thursday. It was Cavendish’s 29th Tour stage win.

“Oh my god, that was terrifying,” said Team Dimension Data’s Cavendish, who also wore the maillot jaune for the first time of his career after winning the first stage of the race on Saturday last week in Normandy. “That was like the old days, wheel surfing.”

Cavendish, who had never been as successful during the first week of the Tour before, beat German ace Marcel Kittel by half a wheel, with British youngster Daniel McLay third.

Etixx-QuickStep rider Kittel launched the sprint, but Cavendish attached himself patiently to Kittel’s wheel before overtaking him in the final 200m.

Cavendish passed five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault to be alone in second on the all-time list of stage winners. Eddy Merckx holds the record with 34 to Cavendish’s 29.

“We were a little too far back, Bernie [Eisel] and I, going into that,” Cavendish said, revealing the details of his sprint masterclass. “I wanted Kittel’s wheel and I was fighting for it. I knew it would be the right thing to go early because it was slightly downhill, I put the bigger gear on again, but I maxed out and should have put a bigger gear on. I held on and held Kittel off, did to him what he’s done to me over the last three years.”

While Cavendish benefited from the great work of his teammates in his two previous stage wins, he was left by himself in the southwestern town of Montauban after his leadout riders fell away.

“He sprinted very well today,” Cavendish’s teammate Mark Renshaw said. “Today we have been catastrophic, we were stuck on the left side of the road, it was impossible to get back to the front. I believe the track training he did made the big difference, he prevailed with his speed.”

Cavendish, who will be seeking the gold medal in the omnium at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics next month, has been combining training both on the road and track this season. It clearly helped him recover the burst of speed that had abandoned him over the past two seasons, defeating Kittel after a final kilometer covered at the average speed of 62.6kph.

“I knew if I got a good slingshot I could be going 3, 4kph faster than [Kittel] before he had time to react, so that’s what I did and I was happy to hang on for the win,” Cavendish said.

The stage took the peloton from Arpajon-sur-Cere to Montauban in southwestern France on a 190.5km ride.

Greg van Avermaet finished safely in the peloton and kept the maillot jaune going into yesterday’s first stage in the Pyrenees.

On a hot day, Yukiya Arashiro of Lampre-Merida and Jan Barta of Bora-Argon attacked from the start.

The peloton did not chase and they built a comfortable lead of 4 minutes, 30 seconds.

With temperatures as high as 36oC, the breakaway riders’ lead started to decrease after the first intermediate sprint when Frenchman Bryan Coquard of Direct Energie topped rivals Michael Matthews of Orica-BikeExchange, Peter Sagan of Tinkoff and Kittel in their battle for the best sprinter’s maillot vert.

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