July 10, 2015 – Mark Cavendish said patience had paid dividends on Friday as he finally earned his first Tour de France stage victory in two years. It was almost two years to the day — the 13th stage on July 12, 2013 — since the Manx Missile last tasted victory at the Grand Boucle.
Having finished third and fourth in previous sprint finishes on this year’s race, both of which were won by Germany’s Andre Greipel, the 30-year-old Briton nailed the finale of the seventh stage from Livarot to Fougeres.
“In the last two sprints the team had done good and I’ve just kind of been too anxious and gone too early,” explained the Etixx-Quick Step speedster, who found a gap down the inside of Greipel to win the dash to the line.
“The thing about the Tour is that you always have to hit out. At another race one or or two riders come around you but at the Tour 10 come around you. Today was just about kind of not being impatient, although I actually thought I left it too long. Andre sprinted straight, he’s a gentleman and I was able to come through.”
“I had the same power as the other days but if you wait you come with a bit more speed than I did the last couple of times.” Cavendish denied he’d made a tactical error on the previous sprints, saying the competition was simply tough. During the Tour it’s a bit different, you have to hit out otherwise you get swamped with the caliber of sprinters nowadays. It used to be that if I hit out, seven out of 10 times I’d win, but with the caliber of sprinters now it’s maybe one out of 10.”
It was Cavendish’s 26th Tour stage victory, giving him one more than Frenchman Andre Leducq in third on the all time list behind five-time overall champions Eddy Merckx (34) of Belgium and French great Bernard Hinault (28).
“Every one of the 26 was special. It’s the Tour de France, one stage in a rider’s career makes a career; to get one every year is a big, big thing. “It was the longest run without one in the Tour de France for me now, I think two years. To get back to winning is nice. I had my wife and daughter here and it was special to do it in front of them.”
Cavendish dedicated the win to teammate Tony Martin, who had to quit the race following Thursday’s sixth stage after breaking his collarbone in a crash at the end. The German former time-trial world champion was wearing the yellow jersey at the time and his loss was a big blow for Etixx.
“Losing Tony was always going to be a big loss to the team. We said yesterday (Thursday) we were going to win for him today. “To go out wearing yellow like he did was really sad. He’s a big part of the team, it’s like starting a race with 12 guys (a team has nine riders) and now there are eight left with Tony gone.
“I’m so glad his operation went well, I wish he’d been here with us celebrating tonight. “I can’t wait to speak to him later.”
Mark Cavendish won his 26th Tour de France stage and inches closer to Eddy Merckx’s overall record. The Belgian great is still well clear out in front with 34 but his fellow five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault is only two stages ahead of Cavendish now.