Mark Cavendish underlined his position as the fastest man in cycling by sprinting away from his rivals to comfortably take the 187km second stage of the Tour de France from Monaco to Brignoles.
The Briton, who rides for the Columbia team, won four stages in last year’s race — and he continued that form into the first flat stage this year by showing devastating pace to cross the line first in a dangerous sprint marred by an accident in the final kilometer which saw Spanish rider Koldo Fernandez take a nasty tumble. Cavendish finished in a time of four hours, 30 minutes and two seconds, ahead of American Tyler Farrar of the Garmin team, with Frenchman Romain Feillu coming home third. Yukiya Arashiro of the BBox Bouygues Telecom team finished fifth, the highest-ever placing by a Japanese rider in the race. “The result shows I am in good form and that my team is highly motivated. It shows we mean business,” Cavendish told Eurosport TV. “I wasn’t sure this stage would be right for me, but I rolde intelligently and felt very fresh throughout the day. My team set a really fast pace and as long as I could hold onto their wheels, I was going to be OK. “But it was very ferocious in the closing kilometer and I’m not surprised there was a crash. The Tour is different to any other race, it’s that much quicker.” In an exclusive interview with CNN before the race, Cavendish revealed that he was bidding to win as many stages as possible and was not necessarily aiming to win the green points jersey — awarded to the most consistent rider.Cavendish talks to CNN
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However, his stage victory means he has already taken the lead in that competition and will be in green for the 196km third stage from Marseille to La Grande Motte. Meanwhile, there is no change in the overall classification, with Swiss Fabian Cancellara retaining his overall race lead following his victory in the first stage time-trial in Monaco. The Saxo Bank rider remains in the yellow jersey by 18 seconds from 2007 champion Alberto Contador, with Briton Bradley Wiggins a further second behind in third position.
Sunday’s stage took place in sweltering conditions by the French Riviera and four riders, Finn Jussi Veikkanen and Frenchmen Cyril Dessel, Stef Clement and Stephane Auge broke away from the peloton after just 13.5km. They held a lead of over five minutes at one stage and were left to fry in the baking conditions before the sprinters teams began working to reduce the gap — eventually catching the quartet with 10.5km left.