Stage 13: Narbonne - Nîmes
By BikeRadar & AFP
Friday, July 18, 2008 5.41pm
British sprinter makes it four in Nimes
Britain's Mark Cavendish claimed his fourth victory on the Tour de France Friday after dominating another bunch sprint at the end of the 182.5km 13th stage from Narbonne to Nimes.
Australian Cadel Evans retained the race leader's yellow jersey ahead of Saturday's 14th stage from here to Dignes-les-Bains at the foot of the Alps.
Only 24 hours after his record-setting victory on stage 12, Cavendish reinforced his reputation as the race's fastest sprinter after outgunning Evans' Silence-Lotto teammate Robbie McEwen.
McEwen finished second, with Frenchman Roman Feillu, of the Agritubel team, claiming third place ahead of German Heinrich Haussler and Spaniard Oscar Freire.
"I had to give it a final push and give it full gas again at the end because when I did the initial kick I didn't realise there was a headwind at the finish," said Cavendish.
"I thought, Oh no, I'm going to have to get a further advantage' and so I put in another kick with about 100 to go in case I died. I didn't die and I was able to hold on so I'm pleased."
Cavendish's fourth win on the race means he has now equalled the impressive feats of respected sprinters Mario Cipollini and Alessandro Petacchi, both of whom won four wins from single editions, in 1999 and 2003 respectively.
To put his success into perspective, Cavendish - on only his second Tour participation - already has a quarter of the 12 stages won by McEwen, one of the elder statesmen of the race.
The 23-year-old 'Mongoose' also raised the bar a notch higher for British riders on the race, having beaten Barry Hoban's all-time record of two stage wins in a single edition by winning Thursday's 12th stage.
Cavendish fought back his frustration on Thursday when asked his feelings about the doping scandals that have rocked the Tour. After his latest win, he quickly declared that all he was interested in discussing was his and his Columbia team's achievements.
"We all work so well and so selflessly, and that shows in our results. I love these guys like my brothers," said Cavendish, who added that each of his stage wins was different. For sure my favourite one is the first one, the team held it so well together for me. Yesterday I was able to go so far from the finish. Today was the hardest one, I sprinted in my normal fashion and jumped off the train and went for the line.
"But at the end of the day, a win's a win. I've done my job for the day."
McEwen had so far had few chances to unleash his trademark sprint for the line, but once he did the 34-year-old came up against a rider he has described as "just too strong".
"I did two sprints, the first one was 500 metres with my nose in the wind to try and get a good position, then a second one just before the line. But Cavendish is simply too strong and too fast," said McEwen. "This was the first time that I've really had a chance to do my sprint, and so it's a relief. I'm glad I was able to sprint, finally. But in the end I was beaten fair and square."
Cavendish acknowledged that he is leaving only crumbs for all his sprint rivals. So far Oscar Freire, McEwen, Gert Steegmans and a few other big names have failed to raise their arms in triumph.
However, the Isle of Man rider, who will compete in the Madison for Britain at the Olympic Games in Beijing, is feeling sorry for no one.
"I've even had a couple of text messages from the other team managers joking that I have to leave them a stage," added Cavendish. "But at the end of the day I'm here to do a job, it's unfortunate for them."
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© BikeRadar & AFP 2008