Sept 11, 2011 – Mark Cavendish made a winning start to the Tour of Britain with a classy sprint finish victory in the opening stage in Scotland on Sunday.
Cavendish, who has won 20 stages of the Tour de France and took the green jersey this year, was the star attraction in Dumfries and treated fans who braved some nasty weather to a powerful finish as he came out on top in a bunch sprint.
In high winds and driving rain, Cavendish was helped home by his HTC Highroad lead-out man Mark Renshaw to make a perfect start to a race he last contested in 2007.
Cavendish, one of the big favourites for the world road race title in Copenhagen at the end of the month, led the pack home in a time of 4hr 41mins 06secs, with Australian Renshaw in second and Dutchman Theo Bos in third.
“It’s incredible to win the first stage and get the leaders jersey,” Cavendish said. “If the weather had been better we would have been a bit quicker but I think it would still have been the same result.”
Cavendish, who pulled out of the Tour of Spain in the first week, was only given the green light to compete after being given special dispensation by the International Cycling Union (UCI).
UCI rules state that anyone who pulls out of one race is unable to compete in another while the first race is ongoing, and the ‘Vuelta’ overlaps with the Tour of Britain by one day.
The stage was led for the most part by Russell Hampton (Sigma Sport-Specialized) and Pieter Ghyllebert (An Post), who worked together in an early breakaway to open up a six-minute lead on the peloton.
But the HTC Highroad and Sky teams worked in tandem at the head of the peloton to close the gap, catching the leaders with less than 10km to go, paving the way for Cavendish to produce another trademark finish.