This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Mark Cavendish (Sky) won stage three of the Tour of Britain after beating Leigh Howard (Oricia-GreenEdge) in another bunch sprint, with Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEdge) taking third place on the stage from Jedburgh to Dumfries. Boy van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) lost the gold leader's jersey to Leigh Howard.
Phew! was probably the best word to describe Mark Cavendish’s win in Dumfries today after he missed out on stage one following a crash in the final kilometres, and lost stage two after being squarely beaten by Leigh Howard. Today, though, the Manx Missile reversed yesterday’s one-two with a sprint to win in Dumfries for the second year running that left no one in doubt that he is still the fastest guy out there.
Cavendish was clearly relieved and said in the post-race interview: "On the first day, what can you do [when you crash] then yesterday we tried something different and it didn’t pay off. On the twisty bit with 500 [metres] to go I tried to let Luke [Rowe] get away ....but today we were told to follow the script – straight-up sprint – so that’s what we did."
Asked who his final lead-out man was Cavendish replied, "It was Rowe, we get on really well, he is such a good bike rider you know. He could win the overall. He went long, all the guys went long and he just had to go. Earlier Brad [Wiggins] just put a monster turn on through the hardest bit to bring them (the break) back."
Leigh Howard, overall leader
The stage saw all four seasons in one day as Cavendish explained: "It was freezing cold. [Ivan] Basso was riding beside me and was shivering, Italian-style, and I was like, 'this is normal weather here...it’s not cold today'. You’d put a jacket on when it started raining, it would stop, you’d take it off, on, off, on, off. It’s kind of good for me, I don’t like it – no one likes it - but I am used to it."
While Howard missed out on the stage win today, the bonus seconds from his second place put him into the leader's gold jersey. The bonus seconds for Cavendish’s win today moved him from fifth place at the start of the stage to second overall at the end. But, although Cavendish and Howard are actually on the same time overall, the Australian now leads the race on 'countback' because he finished 21st on the opening stage and Cavendish finished 63rd following his crash.
So, with Cavendish in second spot does he have plans for the overall? "No" was the one word answer he gave after the stage.
Stage three itself wasn’t so complicated and followed the pattern of this year’s race of a breakaway batting bravely to within sight of the finish only to be reeled in by the Sky team, leading a full-up sprint. The escapees on today’s 152 kilometre (95 mile) stage were: Bernard Sulzberger (Team Raleigh-GAC), Peter Hawkins (Team IG-Sigma Sport), Kristian House (Rapha Condor), Pete Williams (Node4-Giordana Racing) and Wesley Kreder (Vaconsoleil-DCM).
The five riders went clear after the second sprint of the day and gained a maximum lead of four minutes over the peloton. With 13km to go to the finish the lead was still over two minutes but Sky was starting to race and the breakaway fell apart. Kreder, however, was not done for yet and was joined by Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Sharp) in a two-up that was swallowed up inside of two kilometres before the finish.
The lead-out by Sky was perfect and so was Cav, taking advantage of a brief spell between showers to take his first victory in this year’s Tour of Britain, to take his total of wins in this race to five (making him second only behind Edvald Boasson Hagen, who has seven).
This will be Cavendish’s last race in the rainbow jersey, so how did he feel? "I am trying to savour the moment. I wanted to get a win here and get a final win in the rainbow jersey and I am glad I could do that."
Although it was a great day for the 27-year-old Manxman, the attendant press were all eager to find out about his recent meeting with Sky's team principal Dave Brailsford, regarding departing Sky for another team.
"There is no news yet, but it was okay," said Cavendish. "It was a good meeting and things are moving forward, but he’s got possession of the ball right now. I’m just waiting. Hopefully it will be as quick as possible."